The first week of March, Patrice Peck, a freelance journalist living in New York, started sanitizing everything. She went to Nitehawk, a dine-in movie theater, and brought Clorox to wipe down the little table by her seat, her drinking glass, the utensils. In those early days, she felt like she was the only one obsessing over the coronavirus. As the pandemic spread, she started exchanging updates with a friend via text message and calling her grandmother in Jamaica to discuss the situation there. Peck anticipated that Black people would be hit the hardest, and that this aspect of the story would not receive enough coverage. “It was just very obvious to me,” she said.
By April, shelter-in-place orders were in effect. Peck—who is thirty-three and stylish, lately with cat-eye glasses and short hair—was holed up in her apartment. She and her partner set up to work side by side, their laptops perched on the kitchen island; Peck scoured the internet for news as Black people in America began dying from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, at twice the rate of whites. “I wanted to write something that would be valuable to readers and informative and empowering, particularly to Black audiences,” she said. So she did what so many other independent journalists were doing—she started a Substack.