The United States reported half a million fatalities due to COVID-19 on Monday, Feb. 22, nearly one year since the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Reno on March 5, 2020. 

Things happened quickly from that point forward. Just six days after the first reported case in Reno, the Nevada System of Higher Education and the University of Nevada, Reno announced that classes would continue remotely after spring break. For some students, that would be the last day they would ever walk through their college campus as a student.

Since then, the Nevada Sagebrush staff has reported on the movements of COVID-19, both on and off campus. The following is a timeline recounting what the past year has looked like for the University of Nevada, Reno’s students, staff and faculty. 




On Feb. 28, the University Studies Abroad Consortium announced that all study abroad programs in Italy and South Korea would be canceled, and students studying in those countries were to return home. 

March 11 saw an announcement from the athletics departments of UNR and UNLV stating that sports events were to be held without in-person fans. On the same day, the Nevada System of Higher Education and UNR requested that faculty prepare for online instruction after break. 

A day later, on March 12, UNR and UNLV announced that they would be transitioning to online learning after spring break, starting on March 23. The Mountain West Conference suspended spring sports indefinitely on the same day. 

A little over two weeks after canceling study abroad programs in Italy and South Korea, USAC announced on March 14 that it would be canceling all of its programs worldwide. 

On March 16, NSHE announced that it would be postponing its searches for the next presidents of UNR and UNLV. City of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve announced the closure of all non-essential businesses, including casinos, bars, restaurants and gyms on the same day. 

In an email to the campus community, then-President Marc Johnson announced the closure of all non-essential campus operations on March 18. One day later, UNR’s Department of Housing and Residential Life announced on March 19 that students living in the residential halls would have until March 25 to move out before the halls were closed. 

The first UNR student tested COVID-19 positive on March 20

UNR announced virtual commencement plans for Spring 2020 on March 24 and confirmed the continuation of online instruction through the end of the semester. After an online petition calling for in-person commencement gathered over 16,000 signatures in six days, the university said on March 27 that it would allow Spring 2020 graduates to walk in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 ceremonies. 

In an email to students on March 31, the university shared that it would allow students to change their final grades for the spring 2020 semester to a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” Two days later, on April 2, UNR announced remote summer instruction

On April 10, NSHE announced a contract extension for then UNR President Marc Johnson and approved a budget reduction proposal. 

UNR announced its move to hold summer orientations online on April 29.  

Just five days later, on May 4, NSHE announced that it had plans to resume in-person classes during the Fall 2020 semester. 

UNR announced the cancellation of all NevadaFit programs on May 21. A little under two months later, on July 16, UNR announced its HyFlex reopening plan for fall 2020. 

Just three weeks after the beginning of the fall semester, UNR announced on Sept. 14 that it would continue to use the hyflex model in spring 2021. On the same day, UNR announced that winter commencement would be held virtually. 

On Sept. 17, previous Nevada governor Brian Sandoval was appointed the president of UNR. He took his post on Oct. 5.

Just one day after taking his new position at UNR, Sandoval announced the closure of the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center on October 8. The day after the gym closure, on October 9, Sandoval announced that instruction would be completely online following Thanksgiving Break and that there would be no spring break during the spring 2021 semester. 

UNR announced in an email to 66 students that they would not be allowed to study abroad during the spring 2021 semester on Oct. 15

NSHE said it would continue to allow students to change their grades to “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” during the 2020-21 school year in an email on Nov. 18

On Dec.11, Sandoval announced that four class-free days, or “reading days,”  would be given during the semester in place of spring break. 


Students living on campus in the residential halls were required to show a negative COVID-19 test upon their arrival during the weekend of Jan. 23. Two days later, on Jan. 25, the UNR campus and the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center reopened

Residential hall staff began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations the week preceding Feb. 5

On Feb. 8, UNR announced that it would be hosting a virtual commencement for spring 2021. 

Taylor Avery can be reached at or on Twitter at @travery98.