A cautionary tale: Hopkinsville journalist was surprised when she got covid-19, because she had been so careful

The coronavirus pandemic hit unexpectedly close to home recently for Jennifer P. Brown, founder and editor of digital startup The Hoptown Chronicle in Hopkinsville.

Brown, former editor of Hopkinsville’s daily newspaper, the Kentucky New Erawrites that she tested positive for covid-19 in July despite taking every precaution: “I was motivated to avoid an illness that could put me in the hospital and maybe on a ventilator. I am 58 years old, the same age my mother was when she died on a ventilator. That awful fate didn’t seem like a remote possibility to me.”

She tested positive in early July after feeling exhausted for days. The fatigue and brain fog were her worst symptoms, though she writes that she was also more sensitive to heat and humidity, and it took her much longer to feel back to normal than she expected. She notes that covid-19 doesn’t always present the classic symptoms; she only ran a fever for one night and never had the extreme respiratory distress many patients report.

She writes, “I’m writing about this now because it’s important to know that the coronavirus can reach almost anyone — including people who try hard to avoid it. Also, it seems odd for me to keep writing news stories about all the ways the pandemic is affecting my hometown without acknowledging that it has also affected me. In community journalism, there are fewer degrees of separation between reporters and the stories they cover than there are in large media markets. Often it feels like there are zero degrees of separation, especially when the news happens to a reporter.”

Brown writes that, for example, the Christian County Health Department and the Jennie Stuart Medical Center are both major information sources about the local impact of the pandemic for the Chronicle, but both also gave her care and information. She shares other examples where her dual identities as a journalist and as a covid-19 patient (or potential patient) gave her conflicting perspectives on local health providers and agencies, public policy, and personal freedom. Read more here.
Brown is the programming co-chair of the national advisory board of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog.