Brynna Sibilla and her daughter Talia in the window of their home in Portland, Ore., March 16, 2020.
Jonathan Levinson / OPB

The Northwest Pandemic In Pictures

By Bradley W. Parks (OPB)
April 17, 2020 1 p.m.

Oregon and Washington have been in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic since late January, when the first U.S. case was confirmed in Washington state. This is how OPB's photojournalists have covered it on the ground (and in the air).

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.

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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.


Bill Lapschies, perhaps the world's oldest COVID-19 survivor, celebrates his 104th birthday in Lebanon, Ore. — Jonathan Levinson

Rush hour on Portland's Hawthorne Bridge after stay-home guidance. — Stephani Gordon

Nurse practitioner Shelby Freed talks with a patient before testing them for COVID-19 in Portland. — Bradley W. Parks


Photos from the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and even World War II are strikingly similar to what we see from the COVID-19 pandemic of today.

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.

Contribute your stories here or email the writer. Follow us on Instagram at @opbphoto.

The beginning

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.


Feb. 14, 2020: Amy Skillings of Oysterville, Wash., wheels oysters into a large cooler. As COVID-19 spread in Asia and Europe, shellfish orders decreased. — Anna King/Northwest News Network

Feb. 14, 2020: Hardware stores, like this Home Depot in Clackamas, began running low on dust masks in mid-February. — Kate Davidson 

Feb. 18, 2020: Ken Yu, president of Wing Ming Herbs, at his shop in Portland. He saw an uptick in customers buying immune-boosting herbs while other businesses in the Jade District like restaurants grew emptier. — Kate Davidson


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.


Feb. 29, 2020: The playground sits empty at Forest Hills Elementary, which promptly closed after a district employee tested positive. — Meerah Powell


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.


March 7, 2020: Raven Drake, who lives in a campsite on the western bank of Interstate 5 in North Portland, set aside a separate tent to isolate people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. — Jonathan Levinson


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.


March 7, 2020: Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic fist bumps a fan after a game. — Bradley W. Parks

March 12, 2020: A parking lot sits empty outside Moda Center. The Blazers had been scheduled to play the Memphis Grizzlies. — Bradley W. Parks

March 12, 2020: Annelise Neville (pictured), who worked as a bartender at the Moda Center, went from seeking a second job to seeking any job at all, fearing she'd lose her home. — Bradley W. Parks

March 12, 2020: Cassie Katchia prepares roots for a ceremonial feast on the Warm Springs reservation. Faith communities around the region grappled with how to continue service amid the outbreak. — Emily Cureton

March 14, 2020: People march through a snowstorm to buy toilet paper in West Linn. — Jan Boyd

March 16, 2020: Long Nguyen, owner of Mekha Grill in Portland, anticipating the closure of restaurants: "I feel shocked, really shocked, and I don’t know what to do to be honest with you." — Kaylee Domzalski

March 16, 2020: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announces the closure of bars and restaurants to dine-in customers statewide. — Kaylee Domzalski

March 16, 2020: People enjoy a last drink at Prost! in Portland while the governor makes her announcement. — Jonathan Levinson

March 19, 2020: Aurora Oliva Ma crafts masks at her home in Beaverton. — Arya Surowidjojo

March 19, 2020: Signs like this one at Portland's Screen Door urge unity in the face of the pandemic. — Claudia Meza

March 19, 2020: Oregonians who are able begin to move their lives indoors, like Alex Wadzita in Portland. — Jonathan Levinson

March 19, 2020: People wait for take-out outside Spitz in Portland next to a closed Old Gold whisky bar. — Claudia Meza


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.


March 20, 2020: Downtown streets sit mostly empty at rush hour after Oregonians were urged to stay home. — Stephani Gordon

March 20, 2020: TriMet's 35 bus continues its route, carrying no passengers. — Bryan M. Vance

March 20, 2020: Weston Van Loon waits for an Amtrak train to Eugene. He wanted to get home to his daughter before stay-home orders came. — Bryan M. Vance

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March 20, 2020: A woman unloads her shopping cart at Costco in Tigard. — Arya Surowidjojo


Health care systems and other first responders in Oregon and Washington began to ramp up testing and prepared for a surge of coronavirus patients.


March 20, 2020: OHSU nurse practitioner Shelby Freed tests a patient for COVID-19 at a drive-up testing station in Portland. — Bradley W. Parks

March 20, 2020: Freed pulls a test swab from its protective sleeve. — Bradley W. Parks

March 20, 2020: PeaceHealth Southwest sets up a triage center outside its hospital in Vancouver, Wash. — Troy Brynelson

March 20, 2020: Bozeb Beckwith (left) and Kevin Leonard demonstrate protective suits available to Portland Fire and Rescue first responders who come into contact with potential COVID-19 patients. — Jonathan Levinson


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.


March 20, 2020: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says at a press conference he's prepared to order Portlanders to stay home in the absence of statewide action. — Bradley W. Parks

March 21, 2020: Cars line Highway 26 westbound on the way to the Oregon coast, despite pleas to stay home. — Todd Sonflieth

March 21, 2020: People flock to Oregon's beaches, like this one at Fort Stevens, forcing locales like Warrenton to effectively lock tourists out. — Todd Sonflieth


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.


March 24, 2020: Florists make use of their stock by building flower sculptures around Portland. — Claudia Meza

March 25, 2020: People wait in line for a meal at Blanchet House in Portland. — Jonathan Levinson

March 25, 2020: Words written on the wall at Street Roots in Portland. — Jonathan Levinson

March 25, 2020: "The Traveler" wears a facemask in downtown Bend. — Emily Cureton

March 27, 2020: Rhiannon Chamberlain and her son Jack, 4, participate in a Zoom call with his classmates. — Bradley W. Parks

March 27, 2020: Multnomah County converts the East Portland Community Center gymnasium into a social distance-friendly shelter for unhoused people. — Jonathan Levinson

March 27, 2020: Carlo Lamagna, owner of Magna Kusina Filipino restaurant in Portland, calls his insurance broker. Many businesses' insurance plans will not cover coronavirus losses. — Bryan M. Vance

March 28, 2020: Mike Dusek, right, distributes hygiene supplies to other unhoused people in Portland. — Jonathan Levinson

March 30, 2020: Third grade teacher Jessica Neal hands out distance learning tools and resources at Rock Creek Elementary School in the Beaverton school district. — Steven Tonthat

April 1, 2020: The Edward C. Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon, the site of an early outbreak of the novel coronavirus, is pictured from above. — Stephani Gordon

April 1, 2020: Bill Lapschies is wheeled out of the Lebanon veterans home to celebrate his 104th birthday. He is perhaps the world's oldest survivor of COVID-19. — Jonathan Levinson

April 2, 2020: Intensive care unit nurse Emily Calabro wakes her daughter, Magnolia, 1, from a nap at their home in Vancouver, Wash. Calabro and her husband, also a first responder, decided to send their daughter to family out of state to shield her from the virus. — Bradley W. Parks

April 2, 2020: Migrant farmers prune pear trees at Avalon Orchards in Parkdale, Ore. Workers are practicing social distancing in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus while helping feed the nation. — Brandon Swanson

April 3, 2020: Migrant worker quarters at Liepold Farms in Boring, Ore., sit empty on the brink of an uncertain berry season. — Bryan M. Vance

April 5, 2020: A family waves at a teacher parade for Elmonica Elementary School students in Beaverton. — Elizabeth Miller

April 7, 2020: Intensive care unit nurse Sarah Collins keys into the Airbnb where she's staying in Portland to isolate from her family. — Bradley W. Parks

April 9, 2020: A person walks into a mostly empty Portland International Airport. — Bradley W. Parks

April 9, 2020: Intensive care unit nurse Emily Calabro, middle, and her daughter Magnolia say goodbye to Magnolia's father as they prepare to board a flight to Kansas. — Bradley W. Parks

April 11, 2020: Soprano Antonia Tamer sings arias from her window in Portland. — Bradley W. Parks

April 13, 2020: Caution tape marks off a swingset at Sellwood Park in Portland. — Bradley W. Parks

April 14, 2020: Refrigerated units sit outside the Clark County medical examiner’s office, as it plans for an uptick in unclaimed bodies due to economic concerns. — Troy Brynelson

April 15, 2020: Eat, drink, dance again soon. — David Stuckey

April 16, 2020: A yard sign in Milwaukie thanks frontline workers. — Jule Gilfillan


This story will be updated. Contribute your stories here or email the writer. Follow us on Instagram at @opbphoto.

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