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How journalists are covering the coronavirus while living with the fear, disruption

Our journalists are working through the pandemic, but also trying to take care of themselves and their families.

For weeks, journalists at the Tampa Bay Times have been covering the story of a global pandemic. But like everyone else, we are parents and children, we have spouses and siblings. We are struggling to do our jobs and take care of those we love.

Here are some of our personal stories:

After today, I won’t be able to come back, Dad.

“They’re worried I’ll give it to you,” I told him. “So that’s why I can’t come.”

He pondered that for a few seconds. Then he said: “Should I leave this place?"

Leonora LaPeter Anton with her dad, Bob Bohen. [LEONORA LAPETER ANTON | Times]

Our world is shifting into another gear, one that’s slow and surreal and anxious

I tried to drop off an overdue library book, but the book drop was closed. A sign read: “An imminent weather, facility or civil emergency is in progress.”

Co-workers told me they noticed fewer bridge jams and ghostly parking lots. People mowed lawns at 10 a.m. on weekdays. They heard rustling leaves.

Carmine's Ybor restaurant is among those that closed early due to the coronavirus pandemic. [Times]

My dad owns a restaurant. This is hard.

It’s hard for me to watch my dad worry. He delayed his retirement to pay for my wedding. He’s the hardest-working man I know, and he instilled those values in me.

Brian Griffin, left, the owner of St. Angelo's Pizza in New Port Richey, with his daughter, Justine Griffin, on her wedding day. [Chip Litherland]

Lessons from one Tampa Bay “mommy school” during the work-from-home era

I told my super-smart and super-uninterested little dude that the first rule of mommy school was “don’t be an a-hole while mommy is on a conference call.” I then told him that “a” is for aardvark, but I’m not sure he bought it.

Ellen Clarke's 5-year-old son works on a program assigned by his real teacher in St. Petersburg. [ELLEN E. CLARKE | Times]

As rain falls on Tampa Bay, sidewalk chalk art melts away

For the month we’ve been in quarantine, our corner lot has been our canvas, a dozen squares of sidewalk chalked up for our neighbors and ourselves. We’re hardly alone. Sidewalk chalk drawings have helped spread cheer and, let’s face it, pass time for families socially distancing across Tampa Bay.

Chalk art lines a sidewalk along 60th Street N in St. Petersburg in March. [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times]

Chasing moments of beauty in the time of coronavirus

There are times I’m completely overwhelmed by this house. We are Luke, Leia and Han in the trash compactor, waiting for a droid to shut down the crushing walls.

There are times I’m so grateful for this house. So many do not have so much.

A pelican soars over Tampa Bay moments after sunrise near Bay Vista Park. [BOYZELL HOSEY | Times]
Related: Other columns from Stephanie Hayes

In self-isolation, a Tampa neighborhood is more alive than ever

Social distancing is alive and well in this corner of the kingdom. Better yet, there’s a balance between precaution and panic that’s sensible and encouraging. Neighbors are offering to run errands for one another. They’re trading work schedules, bringing in the garbage cans and listening to each other’s anxieties.

Plymouth Park, in Tampa's Riverside Heights. [JOHN HILL | Times]

My latest quarantine cooking project: beef and bean empanadas from scratch

There are days I eat everything in sight, and others where I have absolutely no appetite. Some weeks, I cook dinner every night. Other weeks, I rely on snacks and the ultimate comfort meal: noodles and butter.

Beef and black bean empanadas, made from scratch. [MICHELLE STARK | Times]

Parenting: I hate your stupid quarantine memes

There is no binge-watching. It is exhausting. Still, it went smoothly for the first few weeks.

Everyone seemed to be handling self-isolation. Then came my 8-year-old’s meltdown.

Paul Guzzo's son earned this game ball in the last little league game played before the season was suspended. [PAUL GUZZO | Times]

I can’t be with my mom on Mother’s Day. So I interviewed her.

We left an anxious world obsessed with death counts and went back in time to Beirut in the ′60s. We were in the living room from her childhood, where beehive-haired ladies smoked from designer cigarette holders at dinner parties. My grandparents were so excited about the moon landing that they decorated with a framed portrait of the astronauts.

Family photos of reporter Gabrielle Calise and her mom, Lena Georges. [GABRIELLE CALISE | Times]

A quick trip to the library, and suddenly, all is right with the world

In the grand scheme of a planet in crisis, somehow the little things seem like they shouldn’t feel big. But childhood interrupted to an 8-year-old is all-consuming. Loneliness, confusion, isolation, worry and boredom dropped on Isadora like a hammer.

Isadora Pendygraft carries a few of 81 books checked out from the Gulfport Public Library before the library closed indefinitely in March. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

I treasure our family dinners during the coronavirus

We turn off the television and put away phones at mealtime. We definitely count our blessings. We talk about things we hope to do when this is all over, and what we used to do when we could venture out of the house.

Kathy Saunders' dinner tablescape. [KATHY SAUNDERS | Times]

Listen, pal, kindergarten doesn’t pay the bills. Now hug me and go away.

It’s my first Friday off and there’s no school. We take a walk at Sawgrass Lake Park, find a gopher turtle and a huge frog. We’re giddy to be outside. But when we drive by his beloved after-school care facility, he cries quietly and asks about it. I promise he can go back as soon as it’s safe.

Ellen Clarke's son did his schoolwork, even if he wasn't happy about it. [ELLEN E. CLARKE | Times]

Why we’re not ready to send our toddler back to day care

If I’m working, then I feel guilty for not being a better father. If I’m taking care of my son, then I feel guilty for not being a better employee. I have no idea how this experience will shape his childhood or whether we’ve been doing the right things.

This sign tells our 3-year-old it's not time to enter the home office because Mommy or Daddy is on an important work call. [MATT BAKER | Times]

At first, I was feverish and shaky. And my feet hurt.

By the end of March, I had developed a strange symptom. The bottoms of my feet felt like someone had beaten them with a 2x4. It was uncomfortable to walk. I hadn’t fallen or kicked something or run a marathon.

Tampa Bay Times photographer Douglas Clifford donates plasma after recovering from the coronavirus. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

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