Jared Leto came back from a 12-day meditation retreat only to find out the world had become overrun with the novel coronavirus; the German Big Brother contestants were just told about the pandemic after being sequestered weeks ago. Now, from Charlie Warzel, a long look at a similar story: In a piece for the New York Times, he documents the recent expedition of Zach Edler and more than a dozen others down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon—a trip that kept the adventurers insulated from the news for almost a month, unaware that the virus had turned into a global pandemic. The group launched from the riverbank on Feb. 19, leaving most contact with the outside world behind, as they had no cellphone service and didn't hear anything from other travelers during their journey. The rafters did have a satellite phone, but they used it to send just a few one-way texts to loved ones.
Then on Saturday, as they pulled up to the shore, a rafting company worker met them there, wanting to know if they'd heard from anybody while on the river. When they said no, he filled them in on everything that had transpired. "Half of us thought he was joking," Edler says, adding: "Somebody would always joke and say, 'What if we come back to a world where nothing is the same?' ... It never happens. Except for this time. This time it did." The rafters have since had to acclimate to a world the rest of us have been immersed in for a month, and Warzel says he's "almost envious." "As we've prepared for the outbreak, one of the hardest parts has been figuring out how to process what will be our new normal," he writes. "It's an endless series of hard choices. How much to pay attention to the news, how much to ignore it. How much to be hopeful. How much to fear. For weeks, the rafters didn't have to make those choices. And they appear grateful." Read the rest of Warzel's piece here. (Read more coronavirus stories.)