Alumni Delivers Vital Information in Fight Against COVID-19
Leia Baez, who earned her Master of Public Administration degree in 2017 (and her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from UNO in 2006), recently shared her perspective about the challenges she’s facing in her unique role as a Public Information Officer for Douglas County, Nebraska, and the opportunities she’s finding during this time.
How different is your work day during COVID-19 as compared to a normal work day?
The hours and days seem to run together now. I often forget what day it is because I sometimes work seven days a week. My job has always required me to be on call 24/7 to handle media relations or breaking news situations, but I’ve never worked this much.
Our team is literally working around-the-clock to get critical information to the media and the public. This pandemic is also something none of us have ever experienced before, so we are having to create new policies and guidelines. We are really learning as we go.
What are some of your biggest challenges personally and professionally?
Personally, getting in my at-home workouts has been a challenge. Before the pandemic forced gyms to close, I was working out at least five days a week. Now, I’m lucky if I exercise three times a week. I miss the gym. Professionally, I’ve struggled more than I’d like to admit with my time management. It’s hard to turn off the work when there is always something to do and I have the capability to work from home. I have to force myself to shut off my notifications and not answer emails so I can rest.
What do you want people to know about all the essential workers who are working to fight COVID-19 and working to keep communities going?
Honestly, I believe we are all essential. Whether you are staying home or reporting to the office every day, we all play an important role in flattening the curve and fighting this virus. It has been truly remarkable to see all of the moving parts behind-the-scenes and see so many public agencies working together to ensure the safety of our community. We have so many incredibly talented people working in our community and I am extremely grateful to be a part of this mission.
What has been the biggest adjustment?
The biggest adjustment has definitely been working remotely from home and also attempting to be a homeschool third grade teacher for my 8-year-old daughter, Estella.
Do you have a personal support system?
YES! And there’s no way I could be successful or get through the tough days without my close friends and family. They always have my back and are great listeners.
Have you felt added stress or anxiety?
Absolutely. But at the same time, my adrenaline has totally kicked in. I am in overdrive mode, but with my journalism background, I work better under pressure and on deadline. Daily prayer and meditation help me alleviate any stress or anxiety I’m feeling. I love the meditation app, Simple Habit.
Do you have any distractions, hobbies or things you do to re-charge?
Working out. Writing. Meditation. Reading. Those are all ways I enjoy unwinding or taking my mind off work and COVID-19. I am also a big believer in finding the positive in tough situations.
Because I have always loved hearing about inspiring stories and helping others find their story, I created a Facebook Live interview series called, Real Talk, Real Inspiration. I interview people with inspiring stories on Facebook Live and bring uplifting content to my professional Facebook page. You can watch “Real Talk, Real Inspiration” at www.facebook.com/leiabaezspeaks.
How do you balance work and family?
I do fun activities each week with my daughter. I visit my parents regularly – I live only a block away from them. I just want to hug and kiss my parents. I miss them so much. We do a lot of air hugs.
How has being a mom changed for you?
I was never a big germaphobe but now I have become extra cautious and adamant about constant hand-washing for me and my daughter. I’m also answering a lot of questions from my daughter. She’s extremely inquisitive and she’s been getting a lot of lessons in government affairs by seeing and hearing some of my work meetings. I’m loving that she’s getting a front seat to the important work I do.
Do you have any tips or advice for everyone trying to adjust to this new normal?
Give yourself some grace. It’s okay to not be okay. Remember you are not alone, no matter how you are feeling. Take care of yourself. Drink lots of water, get enough sleep and stay positive.
While this is a scary time with so many uncertainties, this is also a historic time and an opportunity to reset and refocus. Try to find the good in the bad and see how you can make quarantine life beneficial for yourself. If you don’t already journal, now is a great time to start. Just think how cool it will be to look back at your journal years from now and see how you were feeling during this historic pandemic.