April 2, 2020

Lola Gomez did everything she was supposed to do — she had enough supplies and didn’t have to go to the store. She lives alone. She practiced social distancing. She wore a mask and gloves when she went out. She had hand sanitizer.

“But I’m a photographer, and even though the reporters are working from home, photographers can’t work from home,” said Gomez, who works for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, from a hospital bed, a clear tube wrapped around her face.

Gomez posted a video sharing her story on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday night and invited people to share it.

Her recent work includes haunting photos of empty Austin streets.

Related: This reporter took a buyout, but he’s still helping his former paper with coronavirus coverage ideas

She’s healthy, Gomez said, runs every day and has her asthma under control. And because she’s 42 and not in the high-risk category, Gomez said she had to try five times to get tested.

“So, unfortunately, I had to reach the point where my life was at risk to get medical assistance.”

She talked about what it feels like to have the coronavirus: She can only take short breaths, she coughed so much that she couldn’t breathe at all, and all that coughing made her back ache.

No one, she said, should assume they’re immune from this disease.

“You are not exempt to this.”

Related: People are dying alone because of the coronavirus. This journalist told the story of a nurse trying to help families stay connected.

The media isn’t making this up to create panic, she said, and the government isn’t making this up to create panic.

“This is real and it’s really scary.”

Journalists are working overtime to bring people the story of what’s happening, she said. That includes her newsroom, which is owned by Gannett and is among the newsrooms around the country that will go through furloughs because of the devastating financial blow the coronavirus has dealt to the economy. Gomez was hospitalized the day after the furloughs were announced.

“If you don’t believe in news, please believe in people that are sharing their stories out there.” she continued. “Try to be informed the right way.”

Stay home, she said again.

“Thank you so much. I’m fine. I’ll be better.”

Here’s what Gomez wrote about her experience.

Kristen Hare covers the transformation of local news for Poynter.org. She can be reached at khare@poynter.org or on Twitter at @kristenhare

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that Gomez was hospitalized the day after Gannett announced newsroom furloughs. 

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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