Denver Post 2020 Year in Photos, Part II: Outbreak

“Taking photos in the year 2020 was challenging. Social distancing, wearing masks and a profound sense of isolation added new complications to every day. I started taking pictures of the empty streets of Denver with a tilt-shift lens and tripod right after lockdown started in March. The sudden emptiness gave me a different impression of the city, even though I was photographing the same streets and buildings I’ve seen for years. I used the tilt-shift lens to visually emphasize the sense of isolation around the city, narrowing the focus within different scenes.” – Denver Post photojournalist Hyoung Chang.

While the novel coronavirus circled the globe, people began to realize the hard work required to keep modern life humming along. They began to thank people working in those jobs that may seem thankless — grocery store workers, delivery drivers, restaurant staffers, teachers, first responders, health care workers. Restaurants and their regulars banded together to send meals to hospitals to feed staffers working day and night. Residents left snacks and bottles of water for delivery drivers too busy to stop for lunch. Tired parents shared streams of gratitude to teachers and aides for shifting gears daily to keep students engaged. Artists painted murals lauding the “superhero” traits of first responders. Some large companies offered “hazard pay” to employees who had to work directly with the public. And every evening at 8 p.m. people flung open their doors and windows to howl, clap, cheer and bang pots and pans for health care workers risking their lives to save patients battling COVID-19.

Evelyn Berkey celebrated her 100th birthday April 21 with an outpouring of support.

A gathering had been planned at the Castle Rock Country Club to celebrate, but it was canceled because of pandemic-related stay-at-home orders. COVID-19 has stricken older people around the world in greater numbers than other adults and youths. Despite the hiccup, more than 100 people in about 70 vehicles passed in front of her home to shout “happy birthday” and hand the woman of honor flowers, cards and other gifts. A stranger who saw the procession and learned of Berkey’s birthday joined the parade, sharing wishes of joy and tossing a bag of M&Ms at the centenarian’s feet. A majority of those who passed by shouted from their cars, “We love you, Evelyn. We love you,” telling her they wished they could hug her. Berkey stood with an ever-present smile and crossed her arms over her chest, squeezing as tightly as her 100-year-old arms could, and shouted back, “air hug. air hug.” Another well-wisher noted, “You have lived a lot of history. We read about it, but you have actually lived it.”

When reminded of the adage “You learn something new every day,” and asked whether she learned anything new on this particular day, Berkey answered, “I learned to have a lot of friends. I am so happy to be this loved and to have this many friends. Can you believe all this fuss over an old woman?”

Berkey’s 77-year-old son, Bill, roamed the street with youthful fervor and joy as he snapped photos of his mother’s special day and said, “It’s not about the number of years you have. It’s about how you feel. She walks up and down those stairs every day.” As Berkey walked back into the house after the hubbub died down, she spoke softly to Bill, whose arm she held. “Aw, wonderful. Everyone was just so sweet.”

They call it “sunset solidarity.” Front Range Fire Rescue Chief Mike West and other members of the Colorado Emerald Society Pipes and Drums band were looking for a way to help their communities get through the coronavirus pandemic. They settled on performing a nightly outdoor concert, playing down the sun.

“We are part of the first responders,” West said. “It has become a way at the end of the day for us to say, ‘Hey, we made it one more day. We are still on the front lines. We are still fighting the good fight and there is still hope.’” It’s a centuries-old tradition held in times of crisis, and a new movement among Colorado’s firefighters.

The time of sunset is posted daily on their Facebook page and pipers try to start together in their separate corners of the state.

The coronavirus spread among JBS employees in March — just as confirmed cases in Colorado were climbing out of the hundreds and into the thousands. By the end of the month, nearly 200 employees and dependents had been checked out for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The outbreak peaked on March 27.

Inside the ER

The emergency room team at the Medical Center of Aurora shifted into a high gear and turned chaos into symphonic precision. Over a speaker, a room number was called out. Through more than 20 humming medical professionals a mix of voices emerged, “unresponsive female,” “five minutes,” “potential covid?”


The attending medical staff began feverishly masking, shielding and protecting themselves. One nurse spoke firmly to another to check off procedures. The other responded more firmly, “we’ve done that.” The rise in tension palpable.

The small hallway, no wider than the length of a bed swelled as nurses, doctors, techs and a chaplain took their respective positions. Eyes pierced through goggles looking towards the emergency room entrance.

“When things are at their worst, we’re at our best,” said Dr. Frank Lansville, medical director of the emergency department.

The number of people seeking care at Aurora Medical Center fell in spring, likely due to fears of contracting the coronavirus, doctors said. They encouraged people to seek help and not delay treatment. “We’re ready,” HealthONE spokeswoman Stephanie Sullivan said. “This is what we’ve trained to do.”

Medical workers — from supply clerks and aides to nurses and doctors — donned protective gear from head to toe to protect themselves and patients against the highly contagious novel coronavirus. Many facilities struggled to obtain enough protective gear and the public held fundraising drives to help purchase necessary supplies.

As much as treating patients with COVID-19 and working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have added stress to medical workers, Dr. Frank Lansville, medical director of the emergency department, and other health professionals worry people are putting off other treatments — for heart conditions, possible stroke, abdominal pain and complications of diabetes — for fear of contracting the highly contagious virus at a hospital. First responders and all hospital personnel are taking extra precautions to protect against the spread of the coronavirus. “When things are at their worst, we’re at our best,” Lansville said. “This has been an unexpected world pandemic, but that being said, we’re still here. We’re still functioning at a very high level, and we want people to feel comfortable no matter what they’re being seen for.”

This year, we divided our Year in Photos into four parts. Click here to see Part 1: Before COVID, Part 3: Racial Justice and Part 4: Uncertain times.

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