How DI editors are spending their COVID-19 social-distancing time — and why we’re doing this

Social distancing is how experts have advised people to slow the spread of COVID-19. Here’s how DI editors are spending their down time.


Michael Guhin

The Daily Iowan newsroom is seen on Feb. 26, 2019.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

We’re all in this social-distancing thing together.

Working to slow the spread of COVID-19 has prompted the closure of U.S. higher-education institutions, K-12 schools, bars, restaurants, stores, and other entertainment businesses.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the closure of bars, fitness centers, theaters, casinos, locations of mass gatherings, and senior citizen centers and adult daycare facilities, effective noon Tuesday, and also barred gatherings of more than 10 people.

The University of Iowa has suspended in-person instruction and moved classes online for the remainder of the spring semester and shut down most of campus, as other universities across the country have also moved the remainder of their entire semesters online.

So, as we work to “flatten the curve,” we’re left to figure out: How do we spend all this time not doing all the things we’d normally do?

First, let’s start with a reminder of why we’re doing this. The Washington Post put together an article with data visualizations that has been widely read illustrating what it means to “flatten the curve.”

“This so-called exponential curve [of those positive with COVID-19] has experts worried. If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May,” the Post reports. “That is math, not prophecy. The spread can be slowed, public health professionals say, if people practice ‘social distancing’ by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that all gatherings of more than 50 people be canceled or postponed for eight weeks. The White House on Monday recommended not gathering in groups larger than 10 for now.

Also, experts recommend washing your hands! Wash them often, with soap and water, for 20 seconds.

With all that said, the Daily Iowan staff is also doing our work remotely to the greatest extent possible and still having somewhat of a spring break. Below, see what DI editors have been up to — our hope is to share ideas for how to spend our down time as we learn how to live amid a pandemic for the weeks to come.

Editor-in-Chief Marissa Payne

Mostly, I’ve been covering the news, editing the news, reading the news, and thinking about the DI and my team amid this pandemic. I miss the DI crew quite a bit. Other than that, I’ve been sleeping a lot. Like, I slept for 30 hours last Friday and Saturday alone, and I’ve taken several shameless midday naps. I’ve called my parents after, honestly, not being super communicative with them last week as the new temporary reality set in (sorry, mom and dad). Wednesday’s news of no spring commencement was tough for us, but I’m hoping the UI offers optional December commencement or something so those who want to return and have their moment can. (The UI is working on options — we’ll report answers when the UI has them!)

As far as exciting nonwork happenings go, I walked to the Pentacrest on Tuesday just to check that the Old Capitol was still there. (It is, with its golden dome shining bright as usual.) The weather was nice and sun was shining, so it was reassuring to have some semblance of normalcy and hear the usual Iowa City sounds for a little bit. I sat down on some grass until it became too chilly.

For the rest of my down time, I plan to re-watch lots of The West Wing, eventually bake some brownies so I can eat the batter and enjoy some brownie sundaes, take walks outside when the weather permits, and depending on how busy online classes and largely remote DI work keep me, I’ll read as well. I plan to pick up where I left off over winter break in former UI President Sandy Boyd’s memoir, A Life on the Middle West’s Never-Ending Frontier. 

I’ve been drinking Kool-Aid, Capri Suns, and playing the Disney Suite Life of Zack and Cody Pizza Party Pickup game every now and then to cope with this. I’ve found it also helps to make plans with people for whenever this pandemic ends to have something in the however-distant future to look forward to, because I do believe we will get through this.

Managing Editor Brooklyn Draisey

I recently visited my parents, so I’ve spent my days since chilling. I’ve mainly been using all this extra time to do things I generally don’t have time for, like baking and crafting. I’ve baked banana bread, which I get to enjoy all by myself since all my roommates are gone. I’m going to do a bunch of crafty stuff such as arm knitting and painting in preparation of future birthdays and holidays. I will attempt to paint something for my mom’s birthday.

Reading will also be a thing — I’m reading Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphoses at the moment. If anyone has reading recommendations please let me know; I’m currently resisting the urge to reread Twilight. 

My various streaming services also have very large queues, so I’m trying to watch something new every day. So far I’ve gotten through Castlevania and Frozen 2, and will probably watch I Lost My Body next. 

Managing Editor Sarah Watson

I’ve slept. A lot. I cooked up a bean soup that my mom got me for Christmas (it’s one of those gifts you get in a mason jar with dried beans, a spice packet, and some directions) it made about 10 servings of bean and tomato soup. And honestly I don’t think I cooked the beans long enough — like Al dente pasta except beans are most definitely not supposed to be a little extra firm. So, I plan to put it in a blender and maybe make some refried beans on an English muffin with cream cheese.

I also watched the first Iron Man and the original Parent Trap from the 1950s. Laundry also got done and I deep cleaned my whole apartment. I did homework and called my grandma on Sunday (would highly recommend doing both of these things).

As we were ending our call, my grandma said, “Well this is just the best day ever,” and I asked her why (this was the day that community spread of novel coronavirus was confirmed in Iowa) and she said, “All three of my grandkids called me today.”

Managing Digital Editor Aadit Tambe

I’ve been going to the IMU and sitting by the river, which is relaxing. I had bought a 60-year-old fountain pen at Artifacts last week. I repaired that Monday and got it to work.

I created an interactive map for the DI website on Monday that tracks the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Iowa, which I update manually as new cases are announced. I plan to program a website scraper over coronavirus break that would take data from the Iowa Department of Public Health website and automatically plug it in the map.

Cops and Courts Editor Kayli Reese

I usually use school breaks as a chance to read for fun, and this break is no different. I packed up Station Eleven, the Fleabag scripts, and every Rainbow Rowell novel I could fit in my bag. I’ve also started getting ahead on schoolwork. While I know it’s ridiculously early to do so, working on assignments makes me feel more normal during such an uncertain time. Scouring the internet for job applications to fill out post-graduation helps as well.

Since I’m back home in Wisconsin, I’m taking the opportunity to hang out with my family. I have full conversations with my dog (which isn’t any different than any other break). My brother has rejected my request to play a board game nine times and counting. My mom has been making some truly delicious Keto friendly meals, and I knocked my dad out of a family game of HORSE.

One of my brothers is struggling with having a lack of sports to watch. He’s taken to watching old March Madness and Aaron Rodgers clips and pretending that they’re happening in real time, full-on yelling as baskets are made and touchdown passes are completed. It’s fine, everything is fine.

News Editor Alexandra Skores

I’ve taken time to catch up on sleep and have redownloaded a few old classics. I’ve also playing Trivia Crack with my boyfriend and Words with Friends with my close-knit group of friends from home. During the day, I can be found playing with Play-Doh or watching the latest on Disney Junior — with my 3 year-old sister! In between the madness of Disney Junior and phone games, I’m watching the Tik Tok “for you” page and watching cooking videos.

Sports Editor Robert Read

The sports programming this week with a lack of live sports has been interesting. I’ve watched the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Championship Game and Iowa men’s basketball’s comeback victory at Minnesota earlier this season. Also watched a bit of the 2016 NIT, but even I’m not that desperate to watch sports. It’s also been a great time for sports documentaries — let’s just hope ESPN releases the Michael Jordan 30 for 30 a little early.

NFL free agency has been the best entertainment I could ask for. Adam Schefter is keeping me entertained just by tweeting every 10 minutes. Other than sports, my family and I have been playing games such as Uno and Yahtzee, which always makes for an interesting time. I’ve also watched Goodfellas twice this week and have started binging The Sopranos again. How long until college football season?

Opinions Editor Elijah Helton

I finally have time to read The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells. I’m also weirdly into Emily Dickinson again. That’s mostly what I’ve done. That, and a lot of vegan buffalo wings. I’ve also played some video games like a normal person.

Arts Editor Maddie Lotenschtein

I’m catching up on homework and DI related-work. Other than that, I’ve been reading Dracula, playing piano and guitar, and watching movies with my siblings (and cats), as an arts editor does.

Photo Editor Jenna Galligan

Last Friday, I flew out of the Cedar Rapids airport to Denver. Iowa men’s basketball player Luka Garza walked through my terminal, accompanied by Iowa fans requesting photos. I saw a few other Iowa athletes in the airport and on my flight, and that was a weird reminder that their seasons are all over.

In terms of actually being in Denver, I stayed with my sister and her boyfriend in a small apartment. I planned to come this weekend because Lawrence was set to perform pretty close to their place, but the concert got canceled, and the band is quarantined now. We went grocery shopping to find no bread or paper products at Target. Trader Joe’s finally had toilet paper early Monday morning.

My sister and I (stupidly) went to a coffee shop in the neighborhood after grocery shopping. There was a sign on the door notifying customers that the inside of the shop would be closed until further notice, and all coffee will be to-go only. Everyone pays with a card, and customers don’t touch the screen to pay. A surprising amount of customers still came through while we were there.

In general, we carried on as normal, but we saw fewer people out by the day. My sister and her boyfriend are working from home for at least the next month, so the more they get updated on that the less we leave the apartment. They aren’t planning on coming home for Easter now, so we made the most of the weekend. I plan to be a lot more conservative about when I leave my house and why now that I’m back in Iowa City.

Follow the DI’s coverage of the spread of the novel coronavirus and find resources here