Reno, Sparks, Nev., March 2024. Northern Nevada Public Health looks back at COVID-19 on 4th anniversary

This March marks the 4-year anniversary since the beginning of largest health crisis in a century: COVID-19 pandemic. On March 12, 2020, the State of Nevada declared a state of emergency for COVID-19. On March 15, 2020, the first COVID-19-related death in Nevada was reported followed by the first death in Washoe County on March 28, 2020. By March 31, 2020, Nevada had surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 cases and the death toll was up to 15.

At the time COVID-19 spread quickly and very little was known about the virus. Health and other government officials had to move quickly using all available resources to deal with the rapid growing number of COVID cases and the death toll, to slow the spread.

Sadly, 1,433 Washoe County residents lost their lives because of COVID-19 as of March 12, 2024.

Throughout these four years, Northern Nevada Public Health (formerly the Washoe County Health District) has devoted considerable resources to the COVID-19 response administering over 220,000 COVID-19 vaccines, investigating over 100,000 cases, and administering over 100,000 COVID tests.

It hasn’t been easy. It required the sacrifice of healthcare professionals and others to care for the community, the willingness of NNPH staff to risk their own health, and the cooperation of the entire community.

Even though we’re in a much better position than when COVID first began, let’s take a minute to reflect about how far we’ve come since 2020 and how things have changed since the times of drive-through testing and vaccination operations, toilet paper shortages, and people losing their jobs due to illness or nonessential business closures.

Thanks to the endless work and commitment to the community, there are now tools to protect against serious illness from COVID-19, such as vaccines that are now more accessible and that are regularly updated to protect us from new variants, and antiviral treatments. Just as important, we now have the knowledge and information we need to make educated decisions about how to protect our health.

Being informed gave peace of mind during the height of the pandemic: knowing what the virus was, what it does, and how to fight it. NNPH made it a priority to make information accessible to everyone, no matter their language, age, social status, or immigration status.

NNPH met the community where they were through social media, community events, religious spaces, and schools to help ensure members of the community had access to information and vaccines.

It’s been a long road. The virus will most likely stay with us much as the flu virus has, continually mutating and staying relevant. The best protection is simple and easy – frequent handwashing, fresh air and best of all, updating your COVID-19 vaccines as recommended.

Today, we want to honor all the health workers, all the people who suffer the long-term side effects of the virus, all the families that lost someone dear, and everyone who did their part to help us get through the pandemic. Thank you for supporting the cause all these years, for hanging in there during the bad times, and for doing what we must to stay safe and healthy.

Finally, we invite you to watch a COVID-19 documentary that showcases the COVID-19 response in Washoe County. The documentary, (which can be viewed here), gives a behind-the-scenes look at the COVID-19 regional response that was led by Northern Nevada Public with support from the City of Reno, City of Sparks, Washoe County, Nevada National Guard, REMSA Health, Reno Fire, Sparks Fire, Truckee Meadows Fire, Medical Reserve Corp and Community Emergency Response Team volunteers, area hospitals and many more organizations. Read more about this documentary here.