Getting COVID-19 while reporting on the impact of COVID-19

"Everything will be all right. Don't be afraid.' - a poultry processing worker

There is some stigma surrounding discussing COVID-19, and it involves blame. I know this because the poultry processing workers I’ve interviewed who have gotten COVID-19 have shared stories of how managers at companies have treated them. Workers who get COVID-19 are often told that they throw lots of parties or that they got it because too many people live together. These workers, immigrants, are being blamed for getting COVID-19, and the reasoning of the managers/companies is racist. The workers, in fact, are not having parties, nor is it fair to assume that they live with many family members. Poultry processing companies are one of the major centers of COVID-19 outbreak in the US, and it is deeply dishonest for those companies to blame workers for spreading COVID-19 when the companies themselves don’t follow basic prevention guidelines.

I tested positive for COVID-19 this week. I thought I had a cold, and it was a day when I was interviewing poultry processing workers. I conduct interviews outdoors, and I am socially distanced from my subjects and wear a mask. After an interview in Springdale, Arkansas, I drove by a rapid COVID-19 testing center, and I decided I should make sure my cold was just a cold. After three hours sitting in a parking lot, which is where the nurse swabbed my nose, I found out I was COVID-19 positive. I was in shock and afraid, but I immediately contacted everyone who had been around me to let them know they might have been exposed. That may be the hardest part of finding out the results, because I felt terrible knowing that I could have spread COVID-19.

I wanted to share this story to encourage everyone to get tested even if you feel like you just have a cold. If you are out conducting interviews, try to make them all outdoors, socially distanced and have both parties wear masks. Thank you to the many journalists and photographers who have reached out to me to share your stories of COVID-19. As freelancers, we are particularly at risk, because we work on a project by project basis, and we know that no media outlet will provide financial support if we get sick.

I am writing this from bed, and so far doing fine aside from tiredness and flu-like symptoms. I have had to hit pause on my reporting on poultry processing workers, but many of them understand because they have also had COVID-19. Take good care of yourselves out there,