Jay Lenkersdorfer

It would be difficult to experience what we as Idahoans have gone through over the past three months and not admit that it has changed us. Our communities are close knit and personal – and that’s why many of us are here in this beautiful state. But that closeness can come at a price where the COVID-19 virus is concerned.

Idaho did quite well for the first four weeks of the outbreak of COVID-19 with no cases reported. Then, as though someone had turned on a popcorn machine, infected people began popping up and the virus quickly spread in the Wood River Valley until there were hundreds of cases in that tight community. The first case of COVID-19 in Burley came through contact with an individual in Sun Valley. Sadly, that local case quickly turned into a fatality as the individual was approaching her 99th birthday.

We have been largely untouched by this virus, so far, which demonstrates that social distancing has had an impact. Some are saying that the cost to our economy isn’t worth the lives saved, but they probably have included themselves as someone worth saving. If nothing else, the COVID-19 virus has reminded us that we aren’t the ones in control on this earth. Something as tiny as a virus can even the playing field for rich and poor, tall and short, thin and thick and everything in between.

Even if you are fortunate enough to escape the illness, you have likely been impacted by the financial impact of businesses shutting their doors until such time that people feel it is safe to leave their homes.

The difference between a recession and a depression is easy to define. A recession is when you lose your job, but a depression is when I lose my job. For social distancing to work properly it requires us to be diligent in following the rules. After all, we are only as safe as the least careful person we have contact with.

This past weekend was supposed to include a recreational outing near Kanab, Utah. We would be staying with some friends who own a second home in Kanab and use it as a vacation rental when they aren’t using it themselves. As the date for the trip neared we began to reassess the wisdom if getting a dozen of us together for three days of fun. The more we thought about it the riskier it seemed. Although we are all friends, we run in different social groups and would only be as safe as the least considerate person joining us.

Those factors added up and in the end we all decided to postpone our trip to such a time when we feel that nobody can get sick from the others in the group. As we spoke about the risks we found out that each of us had someone in our peer group that would be at risk for severe complications should the virus spread from one in the group to another.

About fifteen years ago we got together and rented a houseboat on Lake Powell. It was late in the season and we were running the risk of the weather not being cooperative. Weighing the risks we went on ahead and rented this beautiful houseboat. Each family was responsible for one meal so on night one we pulled out the buns and served BBQ sandwiches.

The next day a couple of guests became sick and my wife was accused of poisoning everybody with her BBQ sandwiches. This was hardly funny to a stressed-out spouse. By day four, everybody on the boat, save one, had come down with the flu. As is turned out the poison was not what my wife had prepared, rather some traveling snacks that one of the moms had put together for us to enjoy. She hadn’t told us that she had been tossing up her lunch for two days before she invited us in to eat dinner with her on our way down to Lake Powell. To commemorate the voyage, we re-named the houseboat The Heave-Ho. I haven’t been to Lake Powell since.

As we evaluate the risks and benefits of shutting our businesses down and staying at home for the next two weeks, it gives me great pause to remind myself of the houseboat experience. Though several of us thought we were going to die, nobody did, and we came away with great stories to tell.

We will conquer this COVID-19 virus with medicines to battle the disease if not cure it outright, and we will be more aware that it doesn’t take a nuclear warhead to get our attention. Please do your part to make this earth a better place to live. Help your friends and neighbors by asking them what you can do to help ease their burdens during this trying time and most importantly, stay at home.

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