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Notebook: Everything changed in March. Except Idaho’s spirit

The time changed. And then, so did everything else.

The word March often comes before the word madness. But it’s a silly, joyful, playful form of the word. Usually, it describes an onslaught of basketball games. 

The word madness still applies to March of 2020. But instead of joy – this year’s madness is one of uncertainty and fast changes.

On March 8th, clocks on iPhones and ovens and cars sprang forward as they do each year. Idahoans grumbled about the time change and the so-called havoc it played on our body clock.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, had made its way into the national consciousness, but most Idahoans weren’t focused on it. Instead, distractions like the upcoming Treefort Music Festival, Big Sky Basketball Tournament, and scores of school events loomed. 

The time change always signals a brighter season for Idahoans. The winter doldrums come to an end. The days get warmer. People come out and play.

But not in 2020. For a few days, the pressure to cancel Treefort mounted. Organizers put out a hopeful note, mentioning that businesses were still open, and they would be too. The festival, a for-profit business, had a lot on the line. 

Finally, as COVID-19 loomed, organizers said they’d postpone to September. The night they made the call though, a large business awards event went on as planned. The Big Sky Basketball Tournament played its scheduled games. 

But Treefort turned out to be the canary in the coal mine.

Over the next two head-spinning days, events large and small were postponed or canceled. First, a trickle. Then a flood. With new guidance from government leaders, every event on the calendar just about anywhere in the valley went dark in March – and most in April too. 

It was only the beginning of this strange spring.

Boise’s mayor first told everyone to stay out of the dining rooms of restaurants. Then she ordered any business where you couldn’t stay six feet apart to close. Meridian’s mayor made similar moves.

Then, along with ‘social distancing,’ another new phrase came into our collective consciousness: ‘community spread.’ Those two words prompted even broader action, as cases of COVID-19 started to pass between residents in ways health officials couldn’t trace.

Idaho’s governor made the call: Stay at home, Idaho. Unless it’s to go out and get groceries or other essentials – or you are involved in making those deemed-to-be-essential functions happen… you should stay at home.

In a state known for its love of freedom and wide-open spaces, the top politician telling everyone to stay in their houses signaled the seriousness of the situation.

Now, as this very different kind of March comes to a close, eight Idahoans have died. Many healthcare workers, especially in Blaine County, have contracted COVID-19. Thousands of Idahoans no longer have jobs, and many more could be out of work in weeks to come. More and more cases are popping up, and our collective society is working to stay at home, stay well and keep our health care system from being overloaded.

While April and May will surely see more confirmed cases, green chutes of hope started to emerge. Boise State and dozens of other organizations came together to 3D print face shields. Idahoans took every possible blood donation appointment. The streets are much quieter than usual.

As March ends and April begins, we still don’t know what the future holds. Each of us in Idaho take one day at a time, adjusting, hoping… and helping. Those are things that will never change.

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Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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