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When the editor gets COVID-19

Colleagues at The Christian Chronicle step up in time of need.

ELGIN, Ill. — COVID-19 stinks.

That’s not exactly breaking news, right?  

For 2½ years, I somehow avoided the coronavirus. But during a recent reporting trip to Chicago, I tested positive for the first time.


Related: For Latino youths, a long-awaited reunión


So instead of doing the work I love, I isolated myself in my hotel room. Apparently, the pandemic has no concern for my plans. Who knew?

Since I find myself with a bit of free time in between coughing spells, I’ll start at the beginning. 

Way back in February 2020, Ricardo Barrera, minister for the Elgin Church of Christ, northwest of Chicago, told me about a national gathering of Spanish-speaking young people planned that summer. He invited me to cover the event — Reunión Juvenil Nacional — for The Christian Chronicle.

So instead of doing the work I love, I isolated myself in my hotel room. Apparently, the pandemic has no concern for my plans. Who knew?

But just a few weeks later came the COVID-19 lockdown. As a result, the 2020 conference was canceled. Then the 2021 one. 

Finally, 2022’s return to some semblance of normal life — thank you, vaccines and boosters! — allowed the 2022 meeting of Latino teens and adults from Churches of Christ to proceed.

I arranged to attend and write a story about it. I invited Audrey Jackson, the Chronicle’s associate editor and photographer extraordinaire, to come and bring her camera.

A few days after the Fourth of July holiday, my wife, Tamie, and I left our house at 3:30 a.m. to pick up Audrey at her apartment. Tamie dropped us off at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City in time to catch a 5:45 a.m. flight to Chicago.

A man visits a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on July 7.

A man visits a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., on July 7.

Our original plans did not include a trip to Highland Park, Ill. But after a gunman opened fire and killed seven people during that Chicago-area community’s Independence Day parade, we headed that direction upon our arrival in the Windy City. You can read our coverage here.

When I got to Chicago, I found temperatures in the mid-70s. That felt really nice as we had left grueling, triple-digit heat in Oklahoma. But I started coughing a lot. My throat felt sore. I initially blamed these symptoms on allergies.

From Highland Park, we drove to Elgin, where Ricardo’s congregation rented a community theater to host the hundreds of Reunión Juvenil Nacional attendees. Audrey and I spent parts of two days talking to people and taking photos there. You can read our coverage, Lord willing, in the near future.

Blame the delay on COVID-19.

When I got to Chicago, I found temperatures in the mid-70s. That felt really nice as we had left grueling, triple-digit heat in Oklahoma. But I started coughing a lot. My throat felt sore. I initially blamed these symptoms on allergies.

But by the third day — a Saturday — I felt really fatigued. Audrey and I were scheduled to be at the Northwest Church of Christ in Chicago that Sunday for a feature on multicultural congregations (they have services in English, Korean and Spanish). 

I decided, just to be safe, to take a COVID-19 test. To my surprise, it came back positive.

By that point, Audrey had started experiencing a mild headache and sore throat. I had bought an extra test just in case mine came back positive and left it by her door. But her test came back negative. That didn’t last long. Audrey flew home and tested positive the next day.

Initially, I thought I could do my normal work remotely. However, I soon learned that I did not have the brainpower or energy to complete my usual tasks.

Meanwhile, I remained in Chicago after my positive test. 

Complicating matters from a work perspective, all of this happened as we were working on the August print edition of the Chronicle. 

Initially, I thought I could do my normal work remotely. However, I soon learned that I did not have the brainpower or energy to complete my usual tasks. I am so grateful that Erik Tryggestad, our president and CEO, and Gabriel Grant Huff, our intern, stepped up to fill the void. 

Gabriel Grant Huff and Erik Tryggestad work on the latest edition.

Gabriel Grant Huff and Erik Tryggestad work on the latest edition.

Others on the news team were a big help, too, including Cheryl Mann Bacon and Calvin Cockrell — both of whom do such an excellent job from their home bases, Cheryl in Abilene, Texas, and Calvin in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

In 17 years with the Chronicle, I don’t think I’ve ever had to dump all my responsibilities on other folks like I have this time. I know it’s out of my control, but I still hate it. At the same time, I count my blessings to work with such talented and devoted people.


Related: Faith and COVID-19


I hope this month’s column makes some sense.

My brain is still mushy as I type this. I asked Audrey for an update on her condition. “Slowly descending into madness as the days blur together,” she texted back. She hasn’t lost her sense of humor.

Alas, I think I have reached the requisite word count to fill this space and allow me to take a nap.

COVID-19 stinks.

BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Christian Chronicle Christian journalism Coronavirus coronavirus and church Inside Story journalism National Opinion pandemic The Christian Chronicle Top Stories

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