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Colorado River Rafters Were Unaware Of Pandemic, Other News


So just imagine for a moment if you'd been able to hit pause on the world about 30 days ago. The stock market was doing well. Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg were all still running for president. And the coronavirus was not a global pandemic.


That's exactly what happened to one group of rafters who were looking to get away from it all, and they did. On February 19, they set out on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

ZACH EDLER: You know, when you're able to spend 25 days isolated from the outside world, you create this little community where, really, everything revolves around life in the Grand Canyon.

MARTIN: That's the voice of Zach Edler (ph), a rafting guide and a school teacher. And during the trip, he and more than a dozen other people were completely cut off - no cellphones, no Internet, totally isolated from the news because that was the point.

GREENE: It sure was. And when they returned this past Saturday, the man who came to pick up their rented rafting equipment told them what they had missed.

EDLER: At first, I thought he was kidding and pulling our leg until later Saturday when we got into cellphone range. And it just, you know, calls and text messages just started flooding in.

GREENE: That flood included Italy on lockdown, coronavirus cases spreading across America and an economy in complete turmoil. Sarah Knaack (ph) is a nurse who was on the trip.

SARAH KNAACK: You know, when you get off, you probably expect a little bit of culture shock just going back to using a phone and, you know, the noise. But I wasn't really prepared for, like, the entire world reality to have changed.

MARTIN: The story of this rafting trip was first reported by Charlie Warzel at The New York Times. After publishing the piece, he says more people reached out with similar stories.

CHARLIE WARZEL: It seems that there are a number of folks who have been out in the woods or have had some kind of experience where they haven't - weren't able to look at the news the last two weeks, and came online at various times to just a world that was completely different.

GREENE: So now that Zach, one of those rafters, is beginning to adapt to this completely different world, he's starting to figure out what the immediate future looks like.

EDLER: I just want to stay hunkered down and try to stay as safe as possible.

GREENE: And, actually, that sounds like pretty good advice for all of us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLAR HEAVY'S "THE FALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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