Reporter's Notebook: Dallas Journalists Talk Covering COVID-19 While Looking Out For Loved Ones
Most nights, after dinner, I make a quick WhatsApp call to my parents in Karachi, Pakistan. We have a 10-hour time difference between us, so we usually catch up while I'm avoiding my post-dinner dishes and my parents are sipping their morning cups of chai.
These days, our conversations revolve around how the pandemic is transforming our lives, like how much my dad, Shabbar Hasan, hates being cooped up, working from home.
"Sitting [at] a desk all day long makes you want to run away, but you've got nowhere to run," he said. "You can barely walk!"
Before the outbreak began, my brothers and I were planning a trip to Karachi. It would have been the first time in several years that the whole Hasan family would have been under one roof. Of course, we've put those plans on hold indefinitely, and it's tough not knowing when we'll be able to meet again.
The coronavirus has isolated so many of us from loved ones. It almost doesn't make a difference whether your folks are across the world or across the state.
"I'm just ready to kind of sit at home and watch Univision on the couch with [my family]," said Juan Figueroa, who takes photographs for the Dallas Morning News.
Figueroa grew up in Dalhart, a city of about 8,000 near the northwest corner of the Texas Panhandle. His parents still live there, and a few weeks ago, his father was told not to come to work at a local feed lot because of coronavirus concerns.
"He's like the type of Latino dad who doesn't really show his emotions that much or he doesn't like to talk about stuff," Figueroa said. "I mean, he seems to be doing fine. He didn't tell me. My mom was the one who was like, 'Oh, your dad is going to have to stay home now.'"
Figueroa's dad has since returned to work, and my dad's office has partially reopened. Both of us can't help but worry about their risk of exposure.
As we cover COVID-19 in North Texas, Figueroa and I run into each other at press conferences. We wave hello before we get to work snapping photos and gathering tape. The news continues to move at a breakneck pace, and we're trying to stay on top of it, sharing important updates with our listeners and readers. It doesn't leave much time to think about how our own worlds are changing.
"The first time I started thinking about it, I was driving home from an assignment, and I just started crying on the drive," Figueroa said, "because I was just like, something might happen."
We find ourselves preoccupied with our families' safety and unable to do much about it. Figueroa's role as a photographer requires him to be in Dallas, and he doesn't want to put his parents at risk by visiting them in person.
"What if I do have something and I try to go home, and then I give it to them?" he said. "And then if I do go home, I might not have a job when I come back, you know. It's stressful to kind of figure out what to do."
As journalists, we have also found ourselves dispelling misinformation within our own families. Our parents have forwarded some of those false claims about coronavirus prevention that are spreading over social media. In the past, we may have laughed off those messages. Now, the stakes are too high.
"She'll send it to me and I'll be like, 'Mom, that's not true,'" Figueroa said. "'Don't do that because you'll think you're safe but you're not.'"
Challenging our parents can be uncomfortable, but we're taking this new reality a day at a time, trying to do our part and look out for those we love. It's tough not knowing when this period of isolation will be behind us, so I thought I'd seek out some perspective from my dad.
"It eventually will be over, and hopefully we will all be stronger people," he said. "Be patient. Be considerate. These are the lessons that this whole thing is giving us."