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March of 2022 marks two years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Nevada. “Changed by the Pandemic” is a KUNR series featuring stories from people whose lives and careers have been drastically altered by the pandemic.

Why one Reno woman left her corporate job to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

Gayle is standing outdoors and wearing a purple puffy coat, an orange safety vest and a black KN95 mask. Behind her are orange traffic cones, a storage-container-like structure and a few people walking around.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Washoe County Health District COVID-19 Program Coordinator Gayle Erickson at the district’s COVID-19 testing site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center in Reno, Nev., on Feb. 28, 2022.

Throughout the pandemic, some public health leaders have exited the field due to incredibly high demands, while others left due to threats or harassment regarding their work. But there were some, like Gayle Erickson, who turned to the profession instead.

KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck met with Erickson as she made her morning rounds at the Washoe County Health District to learn why she left her corporate job.

Hi, I’m Gayle Erickson. I’m the program coordinator over COVID here at the Washoe County Health District. So every day, I typically go through and I check in with all of the managers, supervisors, directors to make sure that they don’t need anything specific from me that’s COVID-related.

I came from a completely different industry. Immediately preceding this position, I was a registered agent manager. I incorporated companies throughout the world here in the state of Nevada. So forming them from the beginning of their initial incorporation documents, all the way through maintaining their records for them, year in and year out. 

I started this position in July of 2020. There was a lot of learning about COVID in general because there’s a lot of misinformation. Coming in and hearing it from the scientific side and what was actually happening and what mitigation measures the health district was actually doing, coming in and learning all of that was a huge, overwhelming task. 

That has probably been the biggest challenge, is making sure that I’m doing what I need to to communicate what the community needs are and how good we’re doing and keeping morale up. Being able to come in and manage a group of people and see them succeed at what they want to do, that’s always been my goal.

This story was produced by KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck and is part of the series Changed by the Pandemic. Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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