The Northwest Pandemic In Pictures
It feels like years ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the United States' first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Washington state on Jan. 21.
It took a few weeks to realize the threat the coronavirus posed to the region, but orders from Oregon and Washington to slow its spread came in rapid succession in early March. Gatherings were canceled. Restaurants and bars shut down. Schools closed. People were ordered to stay home.
Looking at pictures made by photojournalists chronologically, you can see how our lives have changed in the time since. Light shows appear, created by reflections on the glass that separates the photographer from the photographed. The streets grow emptier. The people move farther apart.
The images we make now will not be our memories of this time, but they will shape how we and future generations remember it.
Joy, connection and community still exist, as do pain, isolation and hardship — they just look a little different than we're used to.
The following is a look at how OPB's photojournalists have captured this historic time on our section of the planet. We will update it over time.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, late in 2019. While it took several weeks to confirm any cases in the U.S., communities in the Pacific Northwest quickly felt the virus' impact.
Concerns shot quickly through Chinese immigrant communities in the Northwest who were following news overseas. Export-heavy businesses also felt the sting as other countries began taking preventative measures.
Coronavirus arrives in Oregon
Oregon confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on Feb. 28 when a Lake Oswego School District employee tested positive.
The phrase "community spread" then entered the local lexicon. The person who first tested positive in Oregon hadn't traveled to Italy or China, where the outbreak was more widespread, and hadn't come into direct contact with anyone who'd traveled there recently.
Oregon health officials reassured people that the state was prepared and that the risk to the community remained low. It didn't take long for that message to change.
The National Basketball Association suspended its season on March 11, which seemed to be a tipping point. Event cancellations, bans on large gatherings and closures of bars and restaurants followed not long after. The economic and social impact was swift.
Shutting it down
Widespread closures of major institutions like schools, eateries and other gathering places visibly changed our world — or at least parts of it.
Freeways and public transit were relatively empty as workplaces either laid off staff or sent them home. Streets lined with storefronts turned to ghost towns.
Health care systems and other first responders in Oregon and Washington began to ramp up testing and prepared for a surge of coronavirus patients.
Other images were not so encouraging.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday, March 20, that she would not issue a stay-home order like California's. "For me, the bottom line is if there is evidence that Oregonians are not complying with the aggressive social distancing measures I have put in place, I will need to take more restrictive measures," she said.
Those pleas appeared to be no match for nice weather. Images of bumper-to-bumper traffic on roads to the Oregon coast and crowded beaches flooded social media over the sunny spring weekend.
The new normal takes hold
It became apparent that pleas were not enough. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee officially ordered residents of their respective states to stay home on Monday, March 23.
People were told to restrict travel for only essential functions like to obtain food or health care.
Those who could move their lives inside mostly did. Those who couldn't also adjusted the way they lived and worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 and aid the spread of valuable information and resources.
All the while, life marched on. People sought ways to protect themselves and their families, to educate their children, to connect with their neighbors — and to spread joy, wherever possible.
Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting