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It happened all at once.

One second we were working in offices, walking through crowded grocery stores or picking up our kids from daycare. Then social media exploded. News stories about a novel coronavirus that first appeared in China began to paint a less abstract picture. Everything shut down and we started asking how long this would last.

Well, it’s a year later to the week. COVID-19 did not go away when the weather got warmer, we didn’t kill it by injecting bleach into our veins and while we all jumped on the #CrushTheCurve bandwagon, the entire nation got stomped by COVID-19.

Things are getting better. As of right now, a good chunk of Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the vaccine. We’re seeing less cases and lower hospitalization numbers than just about any other time in the pandemic. In other words, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

But we can’t forget how many lives we lost, more than half a million as of right now, and the people who lost their jobs, pushing them toward, or even deeper into, homelessness and poverty with too few solutions to help them.

At The Reader we wrote about COVID-19. A lot. We’ve interviewed restaurant owners and doctors, tenants facing eviction and frustrated politicians. One of the questions we ask everyone is what they hope people learn from all this. We get a lot of different answers, but if we had to sum them up they all come back to this: COVID-19 was the catalyst, but the issues it accelerated have existed for a long time.

We hope these stories collectively show that. They’re by no means an all-inclusive portrait of 2020, but what they do show is a city and a nation trying to figure all this out in real time.

March 2020

Low supplies could halt Covid-19 testing at one Nebraska lab by next week

March 16, 2020

Our first story about COVID-19 came with the news that the only lab in Nebraska equipped to test DNA samples for the virus was running low on supplies.

COVID-19 Resource Guide

March 18, 2020

Corky Grimes hands Erin Sanders bags containing enough for 10 meals during a Food Bank for the Heartland mobile pantry on March 23, 2020.

Two days later we released a list of resources to help people understand this new virus and where to go if they needed help.

An Omahan’s Life in Italian Lockdown

March 19, 2020

Caroline Cimino told The Reader of what life was like in Italy during their lock down while states considered whether to take similar actions.

Mobile Pantry Distributes Hundreds of Meals, But Some Leave Empty Handed

March 24, 2020

The Salvation Army of Omaha volunteers hand out bags of food to cars on Monday, March 23. Photo by Chris Bowling.

The Reader got it’s first look at the food insecurity crises that erupted following the country’s response to COVID-19.

“Great Things To Do During Quarantine”

March, 2020

woman doing yoga

With so many people dealing with a new and frightening public health crisis, we tried to offer up some fun ways to get even a moment of distraction.

April 2020

Direct Payments, Expanded Benefits and New Business Loans: Your Guide to The $2.2 Trillion Federal Stimulus Package

April 1, 2020

graphic about government checks

No joking around here, this story tried to break down how the government’s stimulus package would work.

Uncertainty, Fear, Hope: One Small Business District’s Pandemic Survival

April 8, 2020

To get a better idea of how COVID-19 might affect our world, we tried to see how it was affecting one small business district.

County Election Commission Works through Record Mail-in Ballot Requests

April 16, 2020

With so many people staying home, mail became the preferred voting method last year, leading to some record turnout.

Union Demands Government Take Action to Protect Meat Plant Workers

April 23, 2020

Across the United States, but especially in Nebraska, workers in meatpacking facilities started catching and dying from COVID-19 at very high rates.

Right Here Right Now

April 29, 2020

man alone

Videographers Josh Foo and Lauren Abell set out to tell personal stories of how the pandemic was affecting small business owners.

May 2020

“We’re Not Even Close”: Protections for Plant Workers Continue to Lag as Workers Fear Increased Infections

May 13, 2020

Photo illustration of an N95 mask. Photo from Unsplash.

While meatpacking workers waited for needed COVID-19 protections, advocates said the state and federal government continued to lag.

June 2020

Cabin Fever Chronicles

June 3, 2020

Douglas County Board Clashes Over CARES Funds

June 30, 2020

As Douglas County received millions of dollars to address social needs and economic shortfalls, commissioners clashed over just how to spend the money.

July 2020

COVID Keeps Homeless out of Libraries

July 7, 2020

With libraries closed, Omaha’s homeless community lost a key resource to escape the summer heat.

The Show Will (Not) Go On (Maybe)

July 10, 2020

As the pandemic stretched on, cinema buffs were faced with the real possibility that moveigoing will look very different after the pandemic.

Supporting Black Owned Eateries During Quarantine

July 24, 2020

With the pandemic slamming small business and people calling for racial justice flooding the streets, The Reader put together a list of Black-owned restaurants to support (spoiler: this list is still very, very applicable).

August 2020

‘A Blessing and a Curse’: How $166 Million in COVID-19 Relief Has Challenged Douglas County Government

Aug. 4, 2020

The Reader took a deep look into how the Douglas County Board was deciding to spend all $166 million in CARES funding.

COVID Roundup Column

Aug. 17, 2020

As we rounded five months of living with COVID-19, The Reader started a weekly column to look at news about the virus as well as the latest data.

Omaha’s Food Security Network

Aug. 18, 2020

City Sprouts garden south Omaha, photograph by Mike Machian

COVID-19 challenged America’s food supply in a way we’d never seen before

$10 Million of Relief For Large Omaha Arts Nonprofits, Smaller Organizations Need More Help

Aug. 24, 2020

The Backline Comedy Theatre at 1618 Harney St. Photo used with permission.

While Omaha’s largest art organizations got monetary aid from the county, a lot of the smaller venues and establishments were left out of the conversation.

September 2020

Failure to Address COVID-19, Racial Justice, Call A Special Session Ends Frustrating 2020 Session

Sept. 11, 2020

The George Norris Legislative Chambers at the Nebraska Capitol. Photo from the Nebraska Legislature.

As the 2020 Nebraska Legislature’s sessions closed it left many senators upset that issues such as racial justice and the pandemic didn’t get more time on the floor.

My Covid-19 Scare

Sept. 22, 2020

A personal story of a false negative COVID-19 test.

Help Us Tell The Stories of Nebraskans We’ve Lost to COVID-19

Sept. 2020

As the death toll from the pandemic rised, we partnered with local media to try and tell the stories behind the numbers.

Adapting to Socially Distant Music, HooDoo Blues

Sept. 3, 2020

With no end in sight for musicians stymied by the pandemic, artists started to get creative about how they could continue performing.

October 2020

Remembering Carlos Tibbs

Oct. 2, 2020

Omaha comedian Carlos Tibbs and his mother died of COVID-19 days apart, bringing tragedy to the city’s standup scene.

The Business and Ritual of Dealing with Death in a Pandemic

Oct.14, 2020

While we paid attention to first responders, we left out the last responders: the people who lay our loved ones to rest who also struggled during the pandemic. This was the first story in an ongoing Reader series.

New Facebook Group Aims to Keep Local Alive

Oct. 30, 2020

A group of Omahans banded together to try and funnel money toward small businesses.

November 2020

As COVID Crisis Closes in, Health Care Workers Beg To Be Heard (Part I)

Nov. 25, 2020

The first in a series about a worsening pandemic and how some of the best doctors in the world were getting shut down by local government.

“Feels Like a Slap In the Face” (Part II)

Nov. 27, 2020

Health care workers share their personal stories of struggling to keep up with an avalanche of COVID-19 cases.

“Hands Are Tied” at State Level (Part III)

Nov. 30, 2020

Senator Tony Vargas. Photo by the Nebraska Legislature.

State senators told us they were running into a brick wall trying to pass legislation that would lessen the effects of COVID-19.

December 2020

As Relief and Moratorium Ends, More Renters on the Edge Face Eviction

Dec. 4, 2020

Members of Omaha Tenants United protest outside the Omaha-Douglas County Civic Center on Wednesday, Nov. 25.

As safety nets disappeared for renters hit hard financially by the pandemic, many feared they’d soon lose their homes.

Soundtrack To a Pandemic

Dec. 4, 2020

With so many musicians stuck inside, a deluge of music followed.

Douglas County Board Struggles with $166 Million In CARES Money Till The Bitter End

Dec. 16, 2020 

Top row (from left to right) : Commissioner P.J. Morgan, District 4; Commissioner Jim Cavanaugh, District 2. Bottom row(from left to right) : Commissioner Chris Rogers, District 3; Patrick Bloomingdale, chief administrative officer; County Board President Clare Duda, District 7; Commissioner Marc Kraft, District 5, joining from Zoom; Joe Lorenz, budget and finance director; Commissioner Mike Boyle, District 1; Commissioner Mary Ann Borgeson, District 6.

After months of debate and struggle, the Douglas County Board allocated the last of its $166 million in CARES fund, putting a bitter end to the acrimonious process.

January 2021

Ricketts Defends Delaying Vaccines for Undocumented Nebraskans

Jan. 6, 2021

Gov. Pete Ricketts made confuding comments that seemed to indicate undocumented people would not be prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine, going against federal recommendations.

Adi Pour on Vaccines, COVID-19 and Outlasting The Pandemic

Jan. 8, 2021

With vaccines on the way, The Reader sat down with Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour to discuss the state of the pandemic and the light at the end of the tunnel.

How To Register for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Jan. 29, 2021

The state released on an online resource to get people in line for the vaccine.

February 2021

High Price of Meat

Feb. 3, 2021

Photo Illustration by Chris Bowling.

After months of missed opportunities, advocates hope 2021 will finally bring necessary protections to meatpacking workers.

The Pandemic, a Society in Decline and No Thanks

Feb. 11, 2021

What do you say as an anti-establishment punk band at a time when society is in a freefall? Ask No Thanks.

March 2021

Live Music Waits To Return

March 4, 2021

Jon Taylor of Domestica’s basement stage is the only place he’s playing these days.

Although venues are starting to reopen, bands remain cautious about performing live.

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Chris Bowling

Chris has worked for The Reader since January 2020. As an investigative reporter and news editor he’s taken deep dives into topics such as police transparency, affordable housing and COVID-19. Originally...

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