Signs were looming in the United States by March 11 that the novel coronavirus was a serious matter, although for most, life was still largely business as usual.
But on that day, of course, a chain of events started what has become our new normal. Early that day, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic, and that evening, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive while the team was in Oklahoma City, leading to the suspension of the NBA season, most of the rest of the sports world, and the shutdown of many businesses and schools around the country.
On Monday, Dec. 21, ESPN released a “30 For 30” podcast that provided an oral history of the day. Included in the lineup of voices is Dr. Anthony Fauci, ESPN NBA commentator Doris Burke, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Gobert and Jazz teammate Jordan Clarkson, and Deseret News Jazz beat writer Sarah Todd, who was in Oklahoma City that night.
Todd detailed what it was like in the Thunder’s arena that night as the game was called off and how she was among those connected with the Jazz who were tested for COVID-19 in the building.
ESPN reached out to Todd in September to gauge her interest in participating in the project. With the NBA in its short offseason, Todd was spending time in California with her family, which is where ESPN sent recording equipment.
After receiving the equipment setting it up, Todd was interviewed for about two hours via Zoom by two ESPN producers on Oct. 5. The final podcast is an hour and 7 minutes long, with Todd’s total air time taking up five minutes and 30 seconds.
With nearly seven months of living through the pandemic between March 11 and when she was interviewed for the podcast, Todd said last week that despite the chaos of that night, in hindsight she feels it was handled very well considering the circumstances.
“We knew some but not a lot about the virus, large-scale testing wasn’t really happening, and so the fact that the Oklahoma government was able to even get people there that night seems impressive now in retrospect,” she said.
Todd was the second-to-last voice on the podcast, saying, “In a really short amount of time, we went from knowing nothing and taking almost zero precaution to really starting to address this, and so it feels like Rudy Gobert testing positive and leading to the NBA shutting down potentially saved thousands of lives.”
Listen to the entire podcast here.