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Photos From The Field: A Year In The Pandemic

A compilation of six photos from 2020 and 2021, which includes health care professionals at a COVID-19 testing site, demonstrators for protests or political rallies, Renown Health's COVID-19 care site, vaccine administrators and a food bank volunteer.
(Top row, left) Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno; (remaining photos) Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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The image composition above includes six themes from 2020-21: (1) COVID-19 testing, (2) schools reopening, (3) 2020 election, (4) Renown’s alternate care site, (5) COVID-19 vaccine distribution and (6) drive-through food bank events.";

Lucia Starbuck has covered the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year for KUNR Public Radio with Report for America, This Is Reno and Our Town Reno. In this photo gallery, she shares her photos from the field.

Early in the pandemic, my newsroom director asked me and my colleagues to grab our belongings and start working from home to curb the spread of COVID-19, but I still found myself incredibly curious about what was taking place in person in my home state. I had one driving question: What was pushing my community members to leave their homes during a deadly pandemic?

Many Nevadans donned facial coverings and left their homes for work, to receive a COVID-19 test or vaccination, or to access a food bank. Throughout the last year, demonstrators also took to the streets to call for social justice, and other protesters gathered to defy COVID-19 restrictions. And some didn’t have the luxury to shelter in place.

A crowded line of people in front of a building at dusk.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / Our Town Reno
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Our Town Reno
Unhoused individuals lined up outside of the Reno Events Center on the first night it opened as a shelter on March 21, 2020.

People experiencing homelessness were immediately affected by widespread business closures early in the pandemic. There was a lack of safe places for people living on the streets to relax, access the internet and shelter from harsh weather conditions. In late March of 2020, the Reno Events Center was transformed into a shelter. City of Reno officials said the Community Assistance Center, where the Record Street shelters are located, did not have adequate space to maintain social distancing. Due to event closures, the events center became a viable option. Around 400 beds were placed six feet apart in one large room; however, this didn’t increase the number of beds available for people.

Two health care workers are wearing full-body personal protective gear. One person is placing an unused nasal swab in a paper cup held by the other person.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno
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This Is Reno
Health care workers demonstrated how COVID-19 tests would be administered at the Washoe County Health District's COVID-19 testing site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center in Reno, Nev., on April 13, 2020.

On the grounds where the annual Reno Rodeo is normally held, the Washoe County Health District transformed the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center’s parking lot into a COVID-19 testing site. Instead of a packed stadium filled with people sharing laughter and drinks, the scene was silent and serious. Early in the pandemic, testing was reserved for people at high risk for contracting COVID-19 due to limited supplies. Since March 2020, nearly 3 million COVID-19 tests have been administered in Nevada. That’s nearly one test per person in Nevada. As of April 2, 2021, more than 304,000 Nevadans have tested positive.

Monica Jaye is in the forefront facing a crowd of about 100 people. Some people in the crowd are holding American flags.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno
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This Is Reno
Conservative radio talk show host Monica Jaye rallied protestors in Reno, Nev., on April 25, 2020. Individuals protested Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order to close nonessential business and stay-at-home directives to limit the spread of COVID-19.

By mid-April of 2020, Gov. Steve Sisolak had announced more than 300,000 Nevadans had filed for unemployment. Due to a record number of claims, benefits were slow to make their way to many Nevadans. Around the same time, hundreds of Nevadans started protesting in the streets, rallying to reopen the economy. Many of the demonstrators were not wearing facial coverings or maintaining social distancing, a move health officials continuously said could prolong stay-at-home directives and business shutdowns. Sisolak ordered nonessential businesses to shut down in mid-March and didn’t announce a plan for reopening until late April.

A crowd of people outdoors. Many are wearing black and some visible signs read, “White silence is violence,” and “I can’t breathe.” In the background are tall buildings and a statue of a whale made of multicolored glass panels.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno
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This Is Reno
Community members gathered for a Black Lives Matter demonstration to protest police brutality in Reno, Nev., on May 30, 2020.

The death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, galvanized community members to protest racial injustice across the country and locally. On May 30, 2020, roughly 1,000 marchers gathered in front of the BELIEVE sign at Reno City Plaza to protest police brutality. After several hours of peaceful protesting, the event hosted by local BLM organizers ended, but a group of a few hundred people split from the main demonstration and later wreaked havoc, which included vandalism and facing off with law enforcement late into the night. Local BLM organizers denounced the riot.

A group of people riding their bikes down a street under a blue and silver arch that says “Reno The Biggest Little City In The World.” The sky is cloudy and moody.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno
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This Is Reno
About 100 demonstrators rode their bicycles through Reno, Nev., for an evening Black Lives Matter bike ride on June 12, 2020.

Throughout the summer, community members continued to gather to mourn Black lives lost due to police violence, and many different ideas were circulated on how to better support Black community members. Community members even rode their bikes to raise awareness. The largest rallying cry during the summer of BLM demonstrations was to defund the police. During the fiscal year 2019-20, the Reno Police Department was allocated 36% of the City of Reno’s $210 million general fund — the largest category of the budget. Many local BLM supporters called for reallocating those funds into mental health services, housing and education.

Countless rows of American flags and signs that say, “Don’t raise taxes,” sticking in a healthy green lawn. The Nevada State Legislature building is in the background.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / This Is Reno
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This Is Reno
Americans for Prosperity, Nevada, planted signs bearing the names of Nevadans who had signed a petition to protest raising taxes on individuals outside the Nevada State Legislature building in Carson City, Nev., on July 16, 2020.

The Nevada State Legislature held two special legislative sessions during the summer of 2020. The first special session began in July and lawmakers looked for ways to offset the $1.2 billion deficit in the state’s general fund caused by shutdowns during the pandemic. State agency budgets were cut across the board, causing concern about many impacts, including steep cuts to health and education services. The second session focused on a wider range of topics, including the election, police reform and unemployment. While people weren’t able to enter the Nevada State Legislature building due to the pandemic, they still participated in virtual public comment and some also protested outside of the building.

Jerome Silas is speaking and looking straight forward. There are microphones in front of his face and the people behind him are holding their fists in the air.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Jerome Silas talked with Black Lives Matter supporters, counter-protesters and reporters at a protest against the Douglas County sheriff, who made a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, in Minden, Nev., on Aug. 8, 2020.

As BLM demonstrations continued throughout Nevada over the summer, counter-protesters in support of law enforcement became more vocal. In early August, a group of about 30 BLM supporters gathered to protest the Douglas County sheriff after he made a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM supporters were met with hostility, threats and violence from nearly 1,000 counter-protesters who came out to support law enforcement and the sheriff. Many of the armed counter-protesters yelled racist obscenities and demanded the BLM supporters “go home.” The small group ultimately left because they said they didn’t feel safe.

Tessa Gregory is holding a bright green sign that says “I can teach from a distance but not from a grave,” and Eric Horne holding a bright orange sign that says “Please don’t kill my wife.” Above and behind them is a building that says “Spanish Springs Hi
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Sparks High School English teacher Tessa Gregory and her husband Eric Horne protested the reopening of schools before the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees’ first in-person meeting since the pandemic began in Sparks, Nev., on Aug. 11, 2020.

As the fall semester starting date drew closer, reopening K-12 schools became a polarizing debate and was plagued with challenges. There were concerns about student mental health and learning losses as working families struggled with childcare and teachers feared for their safety. Hundreds of teachers and parents in Washoe County protested before school began to postpone reopening. Unlike the Clark County School District, which remained virtual for nearly a year for most students, the Washoe County School District landed on a hybrid system for many students. WCSD ended up switching to full remote learning for middle and high school students at the beginning of December as COVID-19 cases surged in Washoe County and contact tracing could not keep up. Secondary students returned to the classroom two weeks into the 2021 spring semester. Elementary students have remained in person. However, all K-12 families had the option to sign up for remote learning.

A group of women hold signs that read, “Don’t let Trump steal the election again!,” “Trump/DeJoy do not sabotage our right to vote by mail," and “Save the USPS!”
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
A group of people rallied outside of a United States Postal Service office in Carson City, Nev., on Aug. 12, 2020, to show support of the USPS, including its role in delivering mail-in ballots for the 2020 general election.

As the presidential election loomed, Nevada lawmakers approved a bill requiring mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters in the state in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 at polling locations for the 2020 general election. However, in late August, operational changes within the U.S. Postal Service delayed mail across the country, worrying many voters about the integrity of mail-in ballots. Voters in Carson City and Reno took to the streets to protest against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Republican megadonor, who was heading the changes.

A packed crowd of approximately 1,000 people. Very few are wearing masks. The mountains in the background are covered by thick smoke due to fires in California.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Part of the crowd during former President Donald Trump’s campaign rally at the Minden-Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., on Sept. 12, 2020.

Nevada is a swing state, making it a battleground for presidential candidates fighting to get voters on their side. During former President Donald Trump’s first campaign rally since the start of the pandemic, he was greeted by several thousand, mostly maskless, supporters at the Minden-Tahoe Airport in Douglas County. During Trump’s visit, he repeatedly shared unsubstantiated claims that Nevada’s mail-in voting will lead to voter fraud. Trump’s rally was initially slated for the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, but that event was canceled because it would have violated the state's COVID-19 restrictions. OSHA fined Douglas County and the company that manages the airport there for a total of $5,500 for allowing an event that surpassed Nevada’s 50-person limit on gatherings at the time, but the fines were later dismissed.

Alexis Guerrero smiles at the camera as she waits in line to early vote. She is wearing a black facial mask. There is a line of people and an orange traffic cone out of focus behind her.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Alexis Guerrero, a first-time voter, cast her ballot on the last day of early voting on Oct. 30, 2020, at the Spanish Springs Library in Sparks, Nev.

Nevada saw a record 1.4 million ballots cast during the general election, with more than 77% of all active registered voters casting a ballot. Nearly half were cast by mail, but the pandemic didn’t stop the other 52% from showing up in person — early or on Election Day. At the polls, COVID-19 protocols were put in place. Voters were required to wear a mask, social distance and go through a temperature check at the door. Several local voters I spoke to said one of the biggest issues driving them to the polls was deciding who they wanted to navigate the pandemic response and everything that came with it.

Two rows of beds with beige blankets and covered in plastic. A sign above the area reads, “Parking. Upper Levels” with an arrow pointing to the right. There is also the letter “G.”
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Hospital beds arranged inside Renown Regional Medical Center’s parking garage, which was transformed into an emergency COVID-19 care facility in Reno, Nev., on Nov. 11, 2020.

Following the election, Nevada experienced the largest surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the pandemic began. This surge continued through mid-January. To meet the surge in hospitalizations, Renown Regional Medical Center reopened its parking garage care site, which had been transformed into an emergency COVID-19 care facility. It was set up in April in the event hospitals reached capacity, but it wasn’t needed until mid-November. At that time, about 85% of staffed hospital beds were occupied in Washoe County.

A crowd of people wearing red, white and blue. The person in focus is smiling and holding a sign that says, “Trump won.” Other people are holding, “Trump 2020,” signs.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
For the second weekend in a row, a couple hundred, mostly maskless, demonstrators gathered in front of the Nevada State Capitol Building in Carson City, Nev., to protest the presidential election results on Nov. 14, 2020.

Disputes about the election continued, spearheaded by Trump. For months, community members continued to gather in Carson City to protest the election results. They echoed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting and the election were rigged. Demonstrators held signs and chanted, “Stop the steal.” Some wore the letter “Q,” signifying their support of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and a handful of members of the Proud Boys movement, a designated hate group, were also there.

An older man in a mask pushes a dolly with a white box on it. In the background is the back of a white Fedex truck.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
The first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Washoe County, at the Washoe County Health District in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 15, 2020.

By mid-December, the nation was nine months into the deadly pandemic. At this point, nearly 2,600 Nevadans, with nearly 380 from Washoe County, had died. As of April 2, 2021, more than 5,200 Nevadans have lost their lives, including 660 Washoe County residents. In mid-December, a much-anticipated vaccine was set to arrive. The first shipment of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine rolled into the Washoe County Health District. The 3,900 doses fit neatly into one box. I never thought I would be so excited about the arrival of a FedEx truck.

A man is keeping his sleeve rolled up while getting a shot in his left arm by a woman in blue scrubs and a gray knit cardigan. To his left, a man watches the vaccine taking place through plexiglass.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Elvin Willie with the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center was among the first to be vaccinated at the facility in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 16, 2020.

The Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center was the first to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for tribal members in Northern Nevada, alongside some of the facility’s frontline health care workers. At that time, about a quarter of the members of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony had tested positive for COVID-19. There was an air of excitement in the room as people got their shots. This was the first “happy” story I covered since the pandemic began.

A group of vaccine administrators standing in a row. They are wearing safety vests with "vaccine administrator" printed along the back.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Vaccine administrators at Renown’s South Meadows drive-through vaccine site prepared to administer the second shot of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers with Renown Health in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 8, 2021.

The vaccine rollout in Nevada started slowly. The state was facing budget constraints, delayed shipments from the federal government and a shortage of people to help administer the vaccine. The Nevada National Guard, FEMA and volunteers were enlisted to help at different vaccination sites across the state. As of April 2, 2021, about one in three Nevadans over 16 have received their first shot. On April 5, all Nevadans over the age of 16 will be eligible to receive a vaccine.

Boxes of food fill the bottom and sides of the image. In the center is Mimi Krohn in a pink sweater, mask and blue gloves, picking up a box of food. Other volunteers behind her are standing in front of a table packing food.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Volunteer Mimi Krohn (center) packed fresh foods for the Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s drive-through Mobile Harvest at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sparks, Nev., on Feb. 15, 2021.

Advocates are warning the impacts of the pandemic will be long-lasting. Widespread unemployment, high medical costs, expensive housing and low wages are exacerbating food insecurity. In the last three months of 2020, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada served an average of 115,000 people each month. Nevada is tied with Louisiana for the highest rate of childhood food insecurity in the nation.

A crowd of about two dozen demonstrators, all wearing masks, stand in Reno City Plaza. One person is holding a sign that says, “Stop Anti-Asian Violence! Smash White Supremacy.”
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
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KUNR Public Radio
Community members at a “Stop Asian Hate” rally protested racism and violence against Asian Americans at Reno City Plaza in Reno, Nev., on March 27, 2021.

From March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021, Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 3,800 incidents of hate against people of Asian descent across the country, but that number is likely higher due to underreporting. At press conferences and in speeches over the last year, Trump used racist terms to describe COVID-19, which exacerbated discrimination and violence against people perceived to be Chinese. Following the Atlanta Spa Shootings in late March, “Stop Asian Hate” rallies took place nationwide, including in Reno, to denounce violence and racism toward Asian Americans. Demonstrators spoke on the importance of protecting and looking out for one another.

Over the last year, Nevadans have taken to the streets to grieve, support one another, protest in support of a cause or to get their COVID-19 vaccine. I feel honored to share these stories and be able to document these historic events as they unfolded in my home state.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. She’s also a recipient of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF) Jacque I. Minnotte Health Reporting Fellowship.

Some of the photos in this gallery were taken while Starbuck was reporting for This Is Reno and Our Town Reno.

As a note of disclosure, Renown Health is a financial supporter of KUNR.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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