On March 11, 2020, when the World Health Organization declared a COVID-19 pandemic, few could foresee the long road ahead or the many ways in which they would suffer — the deaths, the battered economies, the disrupted lives and the loneliness and isolation.

A year later, some are dreaming of a return to normal, thanks to vaccines, and a better understanding of what it takes to battle the virus. Others live in places where the magic of the vaccines seems to be reserved for wealthier worlds.

At the same time, people are looking back at where they were when they first understood how drastically life would change.

On March 11, confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide stood at 125,000, and reported deaths stood at fewer than 5,000. This week, 117 million people are confirmed to have been infected, and according to Johns Hopkins, more than 2.6 million people have died.

Today, one year and two days later, we look back at the March 2020 news coverage of COVID-19 in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. It’s a timeline of what we knew and when we knew it. It’s also a snapshot revealing a month of firsts. The first cases. The first deaths. The first lockdowns. In March 2020, the world as we knew it seemed to change with the day’s rapid-fire headlines.

March 2

Genesee and Troy schools closed as precautionary measure

Classes and activities were canceled at schools in Genesee and Troy as a precautionary measure related to coronavirus, according to emails and social media posts made by the school districts’ superintendents. Students from out-of-area schools attending the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Feb. 28-29 stayed at each of the town’s school buildings. None of the students were believed to have COVID-19, but both schools closed for the day to clean and sanitize their buildings.

March 3

Wash hands, stay home if sick

Washington health officials reported 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six people have died from the novel coronavirus. Local officials are suggesting people wash hands regularly, stay home from work or school when feeling sick, and cough and sneeze into the elbows. Moscow and Pullman school district officials say there is no plan to close schools but that would change if enough students, staff or faculty are calling in sick.

March 6

WSU Murrow Symposium cancels event

Washington State University canceled the 45th Murrow Symposium scheduled for later in March in response to concerns over the spreading coronavirus. This was the first large event cancellation because of the virus, and would be followed by hundreds of other event cancellations on the Palouse in the coming months.

March 11

No cases of COVID-19 in Whitman County

A number of people living in Whitman County have been tested for COVID-19, but there are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county, according to the Whitman County Health Department. Troy Henderson, the department’s director, told the Pullman City Council on Tuesday that two coronavirus tests came back negative. He said there are 20 tests still pending.

March 12

WSU to move its instruction online

Washington State University announced it will transition all five campuses in its system to online instruction in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The number of cases in Washington climbed to more than 270 with 24 deaths, most of those located on the west side of the state.The University of Idaho instructed faculty to prepare to transition their classes online as well.

March 13

Pullman declares state of emergency

Pullman declared a state of emergency in response to potential effects of COVID-19 on the city. The emergency declaration allows the city to have access to financial assistance from federal and state resources.

March 14

Moscow School District announces closures

The Moscow School District announced it will halt in-person instruction and close school facilities to students for two weeks following spring break in an effort to curb the potential effect and local spread of the new coronavirus.

Idaho has first confirmed case of COVID-19

Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in the state. The state’s first case is a woman in her 50s in southwestern Idaho in Ada County. The woman contracted the virus while attending a conference in New York City at the end of February.

Moscow mayor issues emergency proclamation

Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert issued a local emergency proclamation for Moscow in light of the public health threat posed by COVID-19. “It is critical that our city is prepared to respond in the event of an emergency, and COVID-19 is such an emergency,” Lambert said. “The protection of our citizens and the provision of essential city services is the main mission of city government.”

Inslee expands closures, prohibits large gatherings

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday expanded school closures and prohibited large gatherings across all of Washington in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus while health officials reported at least six new deaths and more than 560 positive tests.

LCSC, UI to switch to online classes indefinitelyHigher education institutions across Idaho are preparing to suspend face-to-face classes and move to online instruction indefinitely amid concerns about the coronavirus.

March 16

Little leaves schools closures up to districts

Idaho Gov. Brad Little declined to order a statewide closure of schools, instead telling school leaders that the decision on whether to close to slow the spread of coronavirus should be made locally. Little made the decision one day after state public health officials announced that the number of Idaho residents infected with the virus had jumped to five. Moscow School District Superintendent Greg Bailey announced Moscow schools will be closed for the next three weeks.

March 17

Moscow cancels big spring, summer events

Spring events, including the Moscow Renaissance Fair, Moscow Hemp Fest and the first Moscow Farmers Market, were canceled because of COVID-19.

Latah County declares disaster emergency

Latah County commissioners declared a local disaster emergency Monday in response to COVID-19.

March 18

Health official, council member: Stay home

A Whitman County health official and one Pullman City Council member said they would prefer Washington State University students not return to Pullman from spring break amid the COVID-19 crisis. At the time, there were no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Whitman County. Councilman Al Sorensen said he and community members are worried about the effect an influx of WSU students coming back to Pullman would have on the health of the community.

March 20

Latah County schools announce closures

Citing increasingly grave recommendations from the state, local health authorities and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Potlatch, Kendrick and Genesee school districts have announced they will close until at least April 6. The schools joined the Moscow, Troy and the Whitepine districts which had already announced closures.

March 21

Here’s your bonus: toilet paper

Clearwater Paper in Lewiston and Stax restaurants in Lewiston and Moscow announced they would be giving employees a special bonus to help with struggles caused by the pandemic: free toilet paper.

March 21

Gritman launches COVID-19 hotline

Gritman Medical Center’s COVID-19 hotline is available for those with questions about symptoms, testing and home treatment regarding the coronavirus. Hotline staff received a steady volume of calls on its first day. There are 31 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Idaho.

March 23

First positive case in Whitman County resident

The Whitman County Health Department received its first positive test result for COVID-19 in a Whitman County resident. The patient, a woman in her 20s, has recovered and is self-isolating at home. No one has tested positive for the virus in Latah County.

March 25

Inslee announces stay-at-home order

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered the state’s more than 7 million residents to stay home unless necessary and for nonessential businesses to close for at least two weeks, expanding previous orders that had already banned large gatherings and closed bars and dine-in restaurants. More than 2,200 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the state, and at least 110 people have died.

Latah County prohibits gatherings of 10 or more

The Latah County Commission adopted an ordinance that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people and dining in at restaurants and bars in unincorporated areas of the county until May 5. Deary, Moscow, Potlatch and Troy have implemented the same or similar orders in their towns.

March 26

Community members sew masks for hospitals

Individuals and groups across the Palouse began sewing cloth masks for area hospitals. Residents stepping up to make masks for hospital workers, then for neighbors, would become a recurring story in the first few months of the pandemic.

March 26

Gov. Little orders Idaho to shut down

Based on guidance from the state’s public health officials, Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order for all Idaho residents, effective immediately. The directive will remain in effect for 21 days and then be reevaluated. Idaho has reported 123 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with no fatalities. In Washington, there have been 2,580 confirmed cases and 132 deaths.

March 27

Whitman County reports third positive test

A third positive COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Whitman County, according to Whitman County Public Health. Latah County has yet to see a confirmed positive COVID-19 test.

Moscow order extended to May 5An emergency order from Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert shuttering gyms, tattoo parlors, barber shops and salons and banning gatherings of more than 10 people has been extended until at least May 5

March 30

Sixth positive case of COVID-19 in Whitman County; Latah still at zero

Whitman County received another positive COVID-19 test Saturday to bring the total confirmed positive cases to six. There has not been a positive test reported in Latah County. According to the latest data from Idaho, there are 310 positive COVID-19 cases in the state and six deaths. There are 4,310 cases in Washington and 189 deaths.

Trump: ‘I want our life back again’

Bracing the nation for a death toll that could exceed 100,000 people, President Donald Trump extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April, bowing to public-health experts who presented him with even more dire projections for the expanding coronavirus pandemic. It was a stark shift in tone by the president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. Trump’s impulse to reopen the country met a sober reality check from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, who said the U.S. could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the pandemic.

March 31

Whitman County COVID-19 cases now up to eight

Two more people in Whitman County tested positive for COVID-19, which brings the total number of infected people to eight.


Latah County would see its first positive COVID-19 case on April 2 and its first death from the virus Oct. 28, about two weeks after the first death from the virus was reported in Whitman County. Through this week, Whitman County virus cases exceed 3,500 and deaths stood at 45. In Latah County, cases exceeded 2,827 with deaths at 8. Nationally, nearly 29 million people have been infected with the virus, and nearly 530,000 have died.

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