As 2021 nears its conclusion, we are looking back on a year heavy with news. There were stories that extensively covered the COVID-19 pandemic and the effort to draw boundaries for a new congressional district for Oregon. And there were investigations in which we dug deep. Here are seven big questions from 2021 that OPB journalists tried to answer in the year that’s drawing to a close.

Year two of COVID: When and how will this pandemic end?

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

It comes as no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic makes the top of this list. To date, more than 800,000 American lives have been claimed by COVID-19. While 2021 included vaccines for the majority of the general public, and more recently approved doses for younger children and booster shots, we also saw two concerning variants — delta and omicron — and more waves of cases.

Medical professionals from Oregon Health & Science University load syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, on Jan. 10, 2021 in Portland, Ore., at a drive-thru vaccination clinic. The clinic was a partnership between SEIU and Oregon Health & Science University, aiming to vaccinate Oregon's 32,000 home health care workers and their patients.

Medical professionals from Oregon Health & Science University load syringes with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, on Jan. 10, 2021 in Portland, Ore., at a drive-thru vaccination clinic. The clinic was a partnership between SEIU and Oregon Health & Science University, aiming to vaccinate Oregon's 32,000 home health care workers and their patients.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The pandemic continued to have a heavy impact on Oregonians in facets of life ranging from education to jobs to overcrowded hospitals. Here’s a look at some of the biggest stories:

How do I sign up to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Getting back to ‘normal’ in Oregon means getting to COVID-19 herd immunity

Gov. Kate Brown hosts ceremony to honor loss, resilience in Oregon as state reopens

Portland Public Schools students return for the first day of ‘real-life school’

School quarantines provide lessons for districts from Portland to the South Coast

Oregon’s largest universities are awash with nerves, excitement, as students move in

More than a month in, Oregon’s private colleges avoid on-campus COVID-19 outbreaks

What you need to know about Monday’s mega-mandate for vaccinations against COVID-19

COVID questions: It’s been a long time since we talked about testing

Q&A: What to know about the COVID vaccine for children

COVID questions: Why ‘natural immunity’ is not enough, explained with Skittles

Oregon to implement ‘test-to-stay’ program in K-12 schools

Mask mandates help, but COVID-19 infection rates are driven by many factors

Investigating an unsolved death: Who killed Sean Kealiher, and what does justice look like?

An illustration shows rows of people with ski masks over their faces.

An illustration shows rows of people with ski masks over their faces.

Jonathan Case / OPB

In OPB’s 10-episode podcast “Dying For A Fight,” we explore the life and death of Sean Kealiher. While Kealiher, an anti-fascist and anarchist protester, was killed in Portland in 2019, his death remains unsolved.

Listen to every episode here on OPB, on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.

The struggles of Oregon’s largest city: What should ‘public safety’ look like in Portland?

A group of local business owners turned to hiring their own security firm, Echelon Protective Services, to investigate activities at a large campsite at Southwest 12th Avenue and Southwest Taylor Street in Portland. This outsourcing of public safety can be problematic as the security firms are often underregulated, and they are accountable to their clients, not the public.

A group of local business owners turned to hiring their own security firm, Echelon Protective Services, to investigate activities at a large campsite at Southwest 12th Avenue and Southwest Taylor Street in Portland. This outsourcing of public safety can be problematic as the security firms are often underregulated, and they are accountable to their clients, not the public.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

While protests dominated the news about Portland in 2020, the city and its government faced still more challenges in 2021, including a growing homeless crisis, a record number of homicides and a downtown unsure of its future. OPB reporter Rebecca Ellis covers Portland extensively and, in 2021, she investigated a hot topic.

Read her three-part series on the role and rise of private security in Portland:

The sudden and troubling rise of a private police force in Downtown Portland

Police, prosecutors wary of private security’s expanded role in Downtown Portland

Portland city officials welcome private security firm’s investigations even as prosecutors skeptical

Diversity in art: Who should art represent?

Portland artist Victor Bizar Gomez paints his mural as part of the Portland Street Art Alliance's Mt. Whitney Blocks project.

Portland artist Victor Bizar Gomez paints his mural as part of the Portland Street Art Alliance's Mt. Whitney Blocks project.

Sara Sjol / Courtesy

A trend from 2020 continued into 2021: the toppling of public statues nationwide. Figures of Confederate generals and presidents were typical targets. The downed statues launched conversations about historical and current representation of individuals and groups in art – regarding both the creators and subjects. In 2021, “Think Out Loud” and OPB’s Arts & Culture team dug deep.

Portland Opera performance focuses on the Black experience

Transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming singers finding their voice

Portland photographer focuses on Black cowboy culture

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

New grant money to support native artists, culture

Never Look Away — A three-story-tall mural celebrating LGBTQ icons

The York statue and the value of public art

Emerging BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and disabled artists find home in Downstairs Gallery

A conversation about public art and monuments

A powerful new musical voice emerges from Eastern Oregon

Portland Playhouse aims for ‘a space for us to be together’ on and off the stage

Redistricting: What will Oregon’s new political maps mean for the state?

Flags on the Senate floor at the Oregon State Capitol, May 18, 2021 in Salem, Ore.

Flags on the Senate floor at the Oregon State Capitol, May 18, 2021 in Salem, Ore.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

In the spring of 2021, Oregonians learned the state would gain a sixth congressional seat. Over the following months, the OPB Politics team kept a watchful eye on debates around the state’s new district proposals. What ensued included 11th hour negotiations, then a lawsuit and a court battle.

Oregon to get 6th seat in Congress

What’s going on with Oregon’s redistricting effort?

Former Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno files suit to challenge Dems’ congressional redistricting map

Backroom deal causes tension as Oregon House Democrats jockey to replace Speaker Tina Kotek

Judicial panel upholds Oregon Democrats’ new US congressional districts

Oregon’s new congressional map is now final

Science and the environment: How is climate change challenging Oregon and the Northwest?

a large group of people march behind a banner some are carrying, which reads, "OUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE"

Portland youths marched to City Hall on Sept. 24, 2021, to urge policymakers to act to curb carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. It was the first such public gathering since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Monica Samayoa / OPB

Historic heat, wildfires and drought reached across Oregon this summer, at a time when temperatures around the globe are climbing. It was the central focus for international leaders this fall at the COP26 United Nations. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. All year long, OPB’s Science & Environment reporters sought answers.

Extreme heat and drought hit Oregon

Marbled murrelet gets endangered status in Oregon as climate change threatens its survival

For some, climate crisis leads to anxiety, depression and grief

Bootleg, Biscuit, Rosland and Milli: lessons from past and current fires

Oregon scientist is working to get more planet-warming carbon out of the atmosphere

PGE ramps up clean energy plans to comply with tougher carbon pollution standards

A global climate pledge could change Oregon’s relationship with natural gas

Post-fire recovery depends on Cascade snow cover, study says

Oregon scientists call for more forest protection to fight climate change, save species

State approves new, ‘more aggressive’ Climate Protection Program

A sensory series on the Northwest: How have the foods we produce and eat shaped us and our region?

An very colorful illustration of many Oregon plant and animal species, with the title "Superabundant" in the center

Aud Koch

Superabundant, OPB’s digital video series, debuted six episodes in 2021. Each episode featured a local ingredient and sought to understand the histories of regional food systems.

THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:
THANKS TO OUR SPONSOR:

Related Stories