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Commentary: Lessons from the (virtual) road

Commentary: Lessons from the (virtual) road

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As Nevada’s Senator, I’m fortunate that the most important part of my job is also the most rewarding. Getting to meet with and listen to Nevadans — stories of their hopes and fears, their challenges, and accomplishments — gives me clarity and strength. I take these stories back with me to Washington, D.C. Normally, I have the opportunity to travel across our state meeting with Nevadans and hear from them in person on how I can best advocate for them in Congress. Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus, that wasn’t possible this year. So, like many Nevadans have been forced to do, we had to adapt. We decided the best and safest way to connect with folks was to hit the virtual road.

Recently, my team and I embarked upon a first-of-its-kind virtual tour. We traded in the open road for the information super-highway of the internet to visit every one of Nevada’s 17 counties. Instead of face-to-face meetings, we made do with Zoom, tele-conferencing, and countless other technologies to hear from the people of our state and discuss what is happening in our communities. One thing that remained consistent during this tour was the incredible resilience and resolve of Nevadans in the face of whatever challenges they have been confronted with.

During the tour, I had the chance to meet with so many Nevadans, like the owners of Frey Ranch in Churchill County. Over generations, this family-operated ranch converted itself into a successful distillery and become a prominent business in the area. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Freys stepped up to help their community, adapting their distillery to produce much-needed hand sanitizer to keep their community safe and healthy. This act of kindness and decency embodies Nevadans’ resourcefulness and care, something that is critically needed during this challenging time.

This innovation was a recurring theme in many of my meetings, and it was especially present when discussing how our state’s schools are preparing for the upcoming year. For my virtual tour stop in Douglas County, I met with the Superintendent to hear about how the school district plans to implement a hybrid plan of in-classroom and digital learning, as well as the many logistical undertakings needed to make this a safe and successful school year. I also met with representatives of Western Nevada College in Carson City to discuss how they are preparing their students not only for education during a pandemic, but for the future of our workforce. I heard about the college’s workforce development initiatives and programs to prepare students to succeed in the 21st-century economy.

But even as our communities look ahead, we cannot lose sight of where we are now. COVID-19 has impacted our state, our businesses, and our workforce in immeasurable ways. Whether it was in Humboldt or Washoe, White Pine or Elko, I saw once again the extent to which our communities need help. The coronavirus has hit our economy hard. We must keep fighting for workers, for small business owners, and for all Nevadans who need our support. I know I will.

I am proud and inspired to see the steps our state has taken to improve lives and protect livelihoods, but we must continue to do more. I’m thrilled to have been part of this innovative outreach to Nevadans. Most of all, hitting the virtual road set out a roadmap on how I can continue to be the best advocate for all of Nevada.

I have no doubt we will get through this challenging period, together, as one community, one Nevada, and one nation.

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