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A Look Back: Our top stories in 2020

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on
Reno Police shot rubber bullets and used tear gas and stun grenades to deter rioters in downtown Reno. Image: Ty O'Neil

It’s difficult to refer to 2020 as something other than “unprecedented.” Unparalleled, unrivaled, unmatched. Any of those could do. Certainly, 2020 for the Biggest Little City was a year to remember – for better or worse.

OK, mostly for the worse.

From the more than 400 residents who died of COVID-19, to the insane politicking, to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police — which drew a spotlight on law enforcement activities around the country and here at home – to the ongoing and vigorous protests for numerous causes, 2020 was a year that spawned intensity for many of the right reasons and for some really bizarre ones.

Attempting to sift through the most critical of information, particularly for the sneaky and pernicious COVID-19, in such times proved messy: It was clear pandemic protocols were erroneous, a bit, to start. By year’s end, though, many of the early recommendations bore out: Stay away from others, wear a mask, try not to go out.

Despite such relatively simple requests asked of many of us, officials, police and everyday citizens simply refused to follow them. Many were vicious in their denial.

There’s the Renown Health employee who called COVID-19 a “scamdemic” and “not statistically relevant” while the parking garage of the hospital was being converted to hold a flood of new patients. That flood, albeit arriving later than anticipated, ultimately arrived.

There’s the gun store employee who suggested 5-10% of the population being killed was no big deal. We all die anyway, he said.

There’s the Truckee Meadows Fire Captain whose Facebook posts were flagged as false. He trotted out unverified conspiracies in the comments sections of local news pages, called people libtards (for being concerned about the pandemic) and said mask-wearers were sheep.

Image: Trevor Bexon

There are the Reno Police officers who refused to wear masks, despite orders to do so, and then were defended by their department’s public information officer.

There’s the County Commissioner hobnobbing at the Trump rally without a mask, and later letting dozens testify at a commission meeting without following the commissioner’s own rules.

That’s just a sampling of the festering cognitive dissonance presented locally as the entire world grappled with, at least for current generations, something so … unprecedented.

At the end of the year, however, it’s clear many believe the devastating, widespread impacts to businesses were more important than the lives lost.

That may be. But businesses can’t exist without people to run and patronize them.

Americans fundamentally don’t want to be told what to do, and that’s a trait to be celebrated. But when health and government officials pleaded with the public to follow simple guidelines — the same ones instituted in Nevada during the 1918 pandemic, ironically — many took it as a call to arms against tyranny rather than a call to demonstrate personal responsibility out of basic respect for their friends and neighbors.

As 2020 wore on, the bodies started piling up. It wasn’t just somebody else’s elderly relatives dying of COVID-19. It was quickly becoming the people we know personally. That’s tragic on any level – and, despite false claims that the new disease was just another cold or flu, the numbers did not support the cavalier attitude extolled by so many.

Local doctor John Hess was clear: “This is not the flu. This is much, much worse — on a scale of 10 times worse.”

The friends and relatives of those who died may confirm this to be the case.

The year 2020 gave our team plenty to write about. It wasn’t all bad. A couple of our top stories were peculiar or entertaining diversions from an unfortunate, sad and stressful year. We’re looking forward to 2021, but, first, here is a look back at some of headlines that drew an incredibly high number of new readers to This Is Reno in 2020.

10. Complaint filed against police officer over online comments

Here’s the story about the complaint.

“This is a personnel matter and I am addressing it,” said Police Chief Jason Soto at the time. “These comments do not represent, or reflect the views of the Reno Police Department. I will not comment on personnel matters.”

Officer Gott got his wish a couple of months later. See also #9.

Reno Police officers prevented journalists from entering a homeless camp clean-up site. Officers demanded we leave the scene. Image: Bob Conrad.
Reno Police officers prevented journalists from entering a homeless camp clean-up site. Officers demanded we leave the scene. Image: Bob Conrad.

9. Reno police boot reporters from homeless camp

It was so they could terrorize homeless people without witnesses, we later discovered. See also #10, above.

8. Nevada vote count delay required by law

Much was made of Nevada’s vote count delay as the nation watched swing states count ballots. Turns out, what wasn’t being considered is that the vote count delay was to be expected, since our Secretary of State forewarned us about it before the general election. Surprise.

7. Unofficial Street Vibrations is held to snub Sisolak

COVID couldn’t kill Street Vibes.

Participants in the “Sisolak Sucks Street Vibrations Rally” on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Image: Ty O’Neil

6. Cathy Woods gets massive settlements after wrongful convictions.

Seriously, WTF? Cathy Woods’ case, and so many others, are likely why faith in systems of justice is so low, especially among marginalized populations.

5. Reno riots.

Here’s a new video with previously unseen footage, some of which was obtained by ordered public records from the City of Reno and Reno Police Department. Here’s our reporting from that day, which garnered a national journalism award.

4. Northstar Ski Resort plaintiff prevails in parking fee dispute.

A win for the little guy.

3. Ice-cream shop owner in Tahoe faces protest after making racial comments on social media about Black people.

She later apologized.

Protesters gather outside Sweet Tahoe Time in Kings Beach. Image: Isaac Hoops

2. School Board Trustee Scott Kelley is called harassing and oppressive in court documents.

Those documents confirmed what many suspected about Kelley all along: He was going after critics, real and perceived, with unrestrained gusto using fake online social media accounts. A PR official from the Washoe County School District called our reporting nasty.

Screen grab from Scott Kelley's Twitter account.
Screen grab from Scott Kelley’s Twitter account.

1. Checkers, the snake on a plane out of Reno-Tahoe, startles passengers.

All hail Checkers.

Happy new year.

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