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Here’s how to help us tell more stories about the state’s COVID victims

Updated August 17, 2020 - 8:23 am

As of Saturday, 1,069 people in Nevada have died of COVID-19.

The dead are represented in multicolored pie charts on the state’s public health response website. Each loss, added to a growing tally, is grouped into slices that reflect age, gender and race. As the numbers rise, the slices fluctuate — a breakdown that has nothing to do with grief.

We don’t know all their names. The county coroner’s office in March initially identified four victims, including the first person in Nevada to die of COVID-19, since coroner case information is considered public record.

But officials quickly pivoted, arguing that since coronavirus deaths are considered natural — meaning that even with underlying conditions, there is often no autopsy — the deaths are not considered coroner cases.

Instead, most cases fall under the health district’s office of vital records, which generates a death certificate. Even amid a pandemic, the health district argued death certificate details are confidential. So as numbers increased, names went unreported.

But on social media and in personal obituaries, family and friends did what officials could not: memorialize many victims for the lives they led, and the love they shared, not the way they died.

Based off those stories, and conversations with relatives, the Las Vegas Review-Journal since March has honored about 20 of those lost. A doctor, a dealer, a Cubs fan. A housekeeper, a pharmacist, a restaurateur. A veteran, a casino operator, a school crossing guard. They were loved and they are missed.

In the nearly six months since the coronavirus gained a foothold in the U.S., one thing haunts our collective understanding: Death from COVID-19 is often a quiet one.

Some die at home, records show. Intubated in intensive care units, others never regain consciousness. Amid strict hospital protocols, video chats — once a fun way to see people you miss — became one of the only ways to see loved ones in their final moments.

We have heard from children mourning parents, and spouses mourning partners. But there are so many more stories to tell.

Absent a vaccine, deaths will continue to rise, experts expect. In an effort to better capture the way the virus has ravaged our community, the Review-Journal is broadening its efforts to memorialize those killed.

As summer turns to fall, readers can expect more, shorter obituaries, aggregated from personal posts and other news outlets. No one’s life can be summed up in a few sentences. But paragraphs say more than pie charts.

If you know someone who has died of COVID-19 and would like to share their story, you can submit information and photos through our online form at https://www.reviewjournal.com/covid-stories/. If you have any questions, you can also email reporters at covidstories@reviewjournal.com.

You can also track the coronavirus’ continued impact on Nevada through data on the Review-Journal’s website, where reporters each day are updating figures on case counts, hospitalizations, recoveries, deaths and rate of infection.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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