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COVID-19, Lori Vallow, earthquakes in Idaho: The top 27 viral stories on KTVB.COM in 2020

In the year that fully transformed life as we know it, these are the most-viewed Idaho stories of 2020.

BOISE, Idaho — After what seemed like a year that would never end, 2020 has made its final curtain call.

What started out as any other year quickly and suddenly became the year that will end up in textbooks in the near future, most notably due to the start of a global pandemic. 

From international wildfires to murder hornets, from a historic presidential election to the way COVID-19 completely transformed the way we live our everyday lives, 2020 will never be forgotten.

And while the year did present numerous unprecedented challenges, many in Idaho and the Treasure Valley community still managed to do some pretty amazing deeds.

We're taking a look back at the most-viewed local stories on KTVB.COM. 

Although not included in our local list, several national and regional stories also got a lot of clicks on KTVB.COM this year: 

Top local stories on KTVB.COM:

27Idaho's own TikTok superstar Doggface208 discusses viral fame, business and getting engaged

In early September 2020, Idaho Falls resident Nathan Apodaca found viral fame after his TikTok that featured a skateboard, a good mood, a Fleetwood Mac classic song, and a jug of Ocean Spray juice took the internet by storm.

Before his TikTok went viral, Apodaca worked at a potato factory in Idaho Falls in Eastern Idaho. Apodaca, also known as Doggface208 on social media, is now working with celebrities like Snoop Dogg, striking deals and spending time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas to help build his career.

KTVB spoke with him days after his TikTok went viral and he said then that life hasn't changed much. In November, KTVB checked in with Apodaca about what life is like after his meteoric rise to fame.

Since he went viral, Apodaca said he has made about $340,000 through music video and commercial appearances, selling his own merchandise and sponsorship deals. He even met Snoop Dogg during a commercial shoot. Apodaca also got engaged to his girlfriend after he popped the question while in Las Vegas at the Nobu Hotel in Caesar's Place.

26. California governor issues strict Thanksgiving guidelines; What should Idahoans do on turkey day?

As COVID-19 cases continued to rise nationwide leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, people were talking about the Golden State's Gov. Gavin Newsom and his guidelines when it comes to social gatherings. Newsom issued that guidance just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The guidelines stated that no more than three households can gather together at a time. Gatherings had to be held outside and were encouraged to last less than two hours. Attendees were permitted to go inside to use restrooms as long as the restrooms were frequently sanitized. Also, singing, chanting and shouting were strongly discouraged. 

Retired CEO and president of St. Luke's Health System, as well as a current member of the Idaho coronavirus task force, Dr. David Pate, told KTVB that while Newsom's guidelines are consistent with our state of knowledge and overall good guidance, it was a bit much for a mandate. 

25. Idaho Fine Arts Academy taking "immediate action" after complaints about Eagle teacher's Facebook post

The Idaho Fine Arts Academy (IFAA) “ultimately fired” a teacher in response to a controversial Facebook comment.

Rita Soltesz, the employee who made the comment, was a classical music teacher at IFAA and a middle school teacher at Eagle Middle School.

Soltesz commented on a Facebook article regarding recall efforts toward Boise Mayor Lauren McLean. In the comment, Soltesz suggested that McLean "needs to get laid" by members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Soltesz then suggested it should "be a group activity" and that perhaps face masks should be worn.

The West Ada School District confirmed shortly after that Soltesz was no longer employed.

24. Boy dead in "random" Horseshoe Bend shooting; suspect in custody

A man who shot and killed an 11-year-old boy in March was yelling about the end of the world before opening fire, witnesses said.

The shooting happened in a mobile home park on Canyon Street in Horseshoe Bend.

The Boise County Sheriff's Office identified the shooting suspect as 44-year-old Benjamin Michael Poirier of Emmett. He had no known connection to the family that was targeted, according to officials. 

23. Arizona school details new information about Lori Vallow and son JJ

Several of our top stories of 2020 were centered on the disappearance of Lori Vallow’s children, 7-year-old JJ Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan. The remains of the children were ultimately found on the Rexburg property of Chad Daybell on June 9, 2020.

In a Feb. 14, 2020 article on the missing childrenKTVB received information from JJ's school in Arizona, which shows a roller coaster in terms of JJ's enrollment. It also shed some light on the conflict between Lori Vallow and her late husband, Charles Vallow. 

Before the family moved to Rexburg, JJ attended Laurens Institute For Education in Gilbert, Arizona. 

The school told KTVB that it used an app called Bloomz, which allowed a school to share information with parents and students. Within roughly one week of this article's publishing, an account named Lori Vallow was monitoring JJ's classroom communication system, even though JJ hadn't been enrolled in the school since September 2019.  According to the school, the name Lori Vallow had been tracked multiple times using the app. 

22. Idaho potato farm gave away potatoes for free so they wouldn't go to waste

A lot of Idaho businesses were dealing with tough decisions as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy.

One decision for Idaho farmers was what to do with all the crops that they could not use. Some had been forced to simply throw the produce away.

Cranney Farms had thousands of potatoes they were expecting to sell.

“I didn’t really have a market for those potatoes, it’s something I would have had to dump or go to like cattle feed,” said Ryan Cranney, CEO of Cranney Farms.

So, Cranney Farms decided they would share their crop, and advertised on Facebook writing simply, "free potatoes."

21. 'Most of the state will be open by the end of June:' Here is when Idaho bars, churches and more could reopen under Gov. Little's plan

Idaho Gov. Brad Little laid out his four-step plan on April 28, 2020 for how the state could reopen as the threat of coronavirus appeared to be receding. 

The governor warned that the model hinged on people continuing to maintain social distance and abiding by the current stay-at-home order to avoid a second spike of illness that could push those openings back further into the summer.

20. Sheriff: Eagle Police officer in surgery, expected to recover after being shot twice

An Eagle Police officer underwent surgery on July 13, 2020, after he was shot twice during a confrontation over a stolen motorcycle, according to Boise Police.

Sheriff Steve Bartlett said the officer was listed in critical condition, but was stable before being taken into surgery and was expected to recover. 

The shooting suspect was taken into custody after an hours-long manhunt near Beacon Light Road and Highway 16, where the man was last seen running away from the site of the shooting. 

According to the sheriff's office, the suspect was found in a cornfield near that intersection just after 11 a.m. Bartlett said investigators used drones and K-9 police dogs to find the man, then spoke to him on a cell phone, ultimately persuading him to come out and turn himself in.

19. Idaho governor mobilizes National Guard, orders rollback to Stage 2 as COVID-19 cases swell

In November, Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced that he was mobilizing the National Guard to help combat the coronavirus pandemic as cases threatened to overwhelm the state's healthcare system's ability to care for the sick and dying. 

The executive order signed by the governor called up 100 guardsmen to help expand healthcare access by assisting with mobile testing, facility decontamination, and more.

In addition, Idaho was moved back into Stage 2 of the reopening plan. Restrictions included a limit on gatherings to 10 people or less, both inside and outside. Religious and political expression were exempt from the gathering limit, however, and bars, restaurants and other businesses could remain open, although patrons must be seated when not entering or leaving the business. 

18. Closures: List of venues, events, and public buildings closed or canceled due to coronavirus concerns

As the coronavirus pandemic continued to spread around the globe, businesses, venues, and city governments were canceling or postponing events, closing down, or changing operation hours to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the Treasure Valley during the spring, KTVB tried to keep up with all of the announcements of closures and event cancellations. We also had a separate list of school closures. Many of these are no longer up to date with recent developments. 

17. Ada County Coroner: Owner of popular Boise restaurant, Barbacoa, found dead

The Ada County Coroner confirmed to KTVB in April that the owner of Barbacoa Grill, Robert Castoro, was found dead in his home.

Officers responded to a death investigation on Gossamer Lane in Boise, off of Parkcenter Boulevard and Bown Way, on Friday, according to a spokesperson for the Boise Police Department.

Police added that there was no evidence of a crime and no evidence that a gun was involved. It was later discovered that Castoro's death was an accident.

16. New COVID-19 travel restrictions in California, Washington, Oregon may impact Idaho travelers

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee all issued travel advisories on Nov. 13, 2020 as COVID-19 cases within those states continued to rise.

In all three states, non-essential out of state travel was discouraged. Additionally, a 14-day self-quarantine after returning from out-of-state was strongly encouraged.

In addition to urging individuals arriving from other states or countries to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival, the states’ travel advisories recommended individuals limit their interactions to their immediate household. The advisories defined essential travel as travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.  

15. KTVB web weather forecast

Idaho's News Channel KTVB 7's team of meteorologists worked tirelessly over the year to ensure Treasure Valley residents were prepared for the weather conditions ahead. 

Our web weather forecast continues to be updated daily with the latest information. Bookmark it to always know the latest forecast! 

14. Nearly 200 aftershocks reported in Idaho after 6.5 magnitude earthquake

After a magnitude 6.5 earthquake shook most of the northwestern United States on March 31, 2020, the United States Geological Survey warned residents that more quakes were on the way.

"Be ready for more earthquakes," the agency posted on its website.

According to USGS, there were nearly 200 aftershocks reported throughout central and southern Idaho since the initial earthquake. Aftershocks most frequently occurred in the vicinity of Cascade, Challis and Idaho City.

13. 'Bruises all over his body:' Meridian boy was beaten, starved, locked in closet before death, prosecutor says

Note: This article contains violent content and graphic descriptions of abuse. Reader discretion is advised.

A 9-year-old boy who was found lying in a Meridian apartment on Sept. 1, 2020, with no heartbeat, covered in bruises and vomit, suffered months of "horrific" torture at the hands of his stepmother and father, a prosecutor said.

The child, identified as Emrik Osuna, was pronounced dead in the pediatric ICU at St. Luke's hours later.

His stepmother, 27-year-old Monique Osuna, was charged with first-degree murder in his death. She sobbed in court as a judge detailed the charge against her.

12. Customer leaves vulgar note after being asked to mask up at a Boise restaurant

Alesis Jones, a 19-year-old shift manager at Big Juds in Boise, was working her usual shift on the evening of July 7, 2020, when a family came in without masks. After trying to offer the family a set of disposable masks, a vulgar message was left behind for the staff member trying to do her job.

“I was surprised and shocked that a grown man would act so childish,” Jones said.

Jones said she held nothing against the group and worked hard to meet their needs like she would for any guest. Everything seemed normal until the group left.

For her service, she was rewarded with a $6 tip on a nearly $90 ticket. In addition to the 7% tip, the group also left the mask she gave them as they came into Big Jud’s with the uncensored message, “F*** Off.”

11. 'Gone for a matter of moments': Eagle police chief gives update on search efforts surrounding missing 2-year-old

A toddler went missing in Eagle while his family was packing to return to California at the end of a trip visiting grandparents.

Eagle Police Chief Matt Clifford delivered a press conference to give an update on the search for 2-year-old Rory Pope.

At the time of the press conference, Rory had been missing for about a day near West Nordic Drive and North Arena Avenue. His grandparents were packing and preparing for Rory to return home from a vacation. Clifford said Rory took off running and was gone for a matter of moments.

Rory's body was recovered in a neighborhood pond shortly after the search began.

10. Grandfather of Rory Pope issues statement thanking community for support

On Sept. 5, 2020, the Ada County Sheriff's Office confirmed via Twitter that the ongoing search for Rory Pope, the two-year-old boy missing from an Eagle neighborhood, had concluded.

Rory was found in the pond near North Area Ave. 

Crews spent three days searching for Rory, draining the water from the pond adjacent to the house Rory was staying at with his grandparents on the final day of the search. 

They continued draining the pond throughout the night on Sept. 4 and early morning on Sept. 5 until the low water level allowed officers to recover him.

9. 'They did not ask for this': High school football game forced to end at half after Ammon Bundy refused to wear a mask or leave

A 4A high school football game between the Emmett Huskies and Caldwell Cougars was canceled at halftime after Ammon Bundy refused to wear a mask or leave school grounds.

Caldwell Police told KTVB that Bundy went to the game at Caldwell High School and was told he needed to wear a mask before entering the stands. Bundy refused to wear one and stepped over to the chain-link fence around the field to watch the game.

The principal and athletic director asked Bundy repeatedly to wear a mask or leave school grounds, according to police. Bundy refused to do either and the principal requested Caldwell police arrest Bundy for trespassing on school grounds.

Bundy was not arrested but was later banned from all district property in the Caldwell School District.

8. L.O.L. Surprise! dolls cause panic as parents discover inappropriate clothing when put in cold water

Did you hear about the uproar surrounding L.O.L. Surprise! dolls? A viral video was seen by 26 million people during the week of August 9-15, so many of you probably did. There's more than one video out there, each showing how when the dolls are dipped in cold water, they display what many consider inappropriate clothing, undergarments, and lingerie. 

There's no warning on the packaging that's what will happen, although there is a warning that the boy dolls are anatomically correct, which is causing even more controversy.

KTVB's Maggie O'Mara shared a video on Facebook of her testing out one of her daughter's dolls. To her surprise, when dipped in cold water, the doll was displayed wearing strappy black boots, fishnet stockings and a purple bikini top.

7. Idaho House passes resolution to end coronavirus emergency declaration

Note: The resolution did not come up for a vote in the Idaho Senate after concerns were raised about its constitutionality. The measure was therefore dead and did not go into effect.

Lawmakers voted during a special session over the summer to advance a resolution that would end Idaho Gov. Brad Little's coronavirus emergency declaration, a move designed to lift restrictions across the state that would also strip Idaho of its eligibility for some federal emergency aid money. 

The 48-20 vote came despite concerns voiced by some members that such a resolution was in violation of the Idaho State Constitution and outside the scope of the special session, during which legislators were required to adhere only to the subjects on which it is called. Little called the session to address the upcoming election and limiting civil liability connected to the pandemic.

6.  Rexburg Police Department confirm that human remains belong to JJ Vallow, Tylee Ryan

A day after human remains were found on Chad Daybell's eastern Idaho property in June 2020, family members of two missing Idaho children confirmed those remains belonged to JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.

Fremont County Prosecutor Rob Wood confirmed that the human remains found on Daybell's property on June 9 were in fact those of children, saying "This is an investigation into the deaths of children."

Daybell, along with his wife and the mother of the two missing children Lori Vallow, is currently facing two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence. Their trials are set to take place in 2021.

5. Lori Vallow, mother of missing Rexburg children, arrested in Hawaii

Lori Vallow, the mother of two missing Rexburg children, was arrested in Kauai on Feb. 20, 2020.

According to the Kauai Police Department, 47-year-old Vallow was charged with two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children. Her felony desertion charges were later dropped and two concealment of evidence charges were added after human remains were found on her husband Chad Daybell's property in June.

She was also charged with resisting or obstructing officers, criminal solicitation to commit a crime, and contempt of court, which are all misdemeanors.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, Vallow is awaiting trial in the Madison County Jail.

4. Meridian woman arrested during protest after refusing to leave a closed playground

A 40-year-old Meridian woman was arrested after she and a large group of people went to a closed playground and ignored social distancing guidelines amid the worsening pandemic.

Sara Brady was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and booked into the Ada County Jail after she refused to leave and told an officer to arrest her. Brady's arrest quickly sparked another protest at Meridian City Hall 

Prior to Brady's arrest, the arresting officer is shown in a video saying "Ma'am, I've told you to exit numerous times, this is it. Exit the playground area now. I'm really trying to be nice about this."

The officer gave Brady one last warning, giving her to the count of five to leave. After he counted down to three, Brady is heard saying "Arrest me for being difficult. Do it! Record it!" Then she asked several times if she was being arrested or detained, which the officer said she was being detained.

3. 6.5 magnitude earthquake rattles Idaho and 6 surrounding states, more aftershocks expected

At 5:52 p.m. on March 31, Idaho and states throughout the Northwest were rattled by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake, according to the USGS.

According to the USGS map, the epicenter of the earthquake was next to Shake Creek and Laidlow Creek northwest of Stanley in the north-central Idaho mountains. It was 45 miles west of Challis and 73.3 miles north of Meridian. 

The USGS had a delay in reporting the earthquake because of social distancing, according to Paul Bodin, the head of the University of Washington seismology lab, who talked to our sister station in Seattle, KING.

People in six different states reportedly felt the 6.5 magnitude earthquake, according to the USGS's intensity map.

2. KTVB COVID-19 live blogs

 As part of our comprehensive COVID-19 coverage, KTVB has used live blogs to track significant Idaho-related developments with the novel coronavirus in real time. In the live blog format, we update the newest developments at the top of the article with a timestamp and links to additional information. One of our top individual live blogs was for the week of March 20-28, when the number of COVID-19 cases in Idaho jumped from 31 to 260. During this week, Blaine County visitors were also asked to shelter-in-place due to an increase in cases in that area.

Also during that week, multiple grocery stores introduced special shopping hours for high-risk individuals during this week while other Treasure Valley facilities closed their doors. K-12 schools and universities also closed.

On March 23, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean issued a citywide social distancing public health order. The cities of Meridian and Eagle followed the next day.

On March 24, Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide stay-at-home order to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The first COVID-19 related death in Idaho was reported on March 26.

You can always see our latest live blog and COVID-19 developments at KTVB.COM/coronavirus. 

And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for: the top story on KTVB.COM in 2020 was...

1. Interactive map and timelines tracking COVID-19 in Idaho 

Since the pandemic started, KTVB worked diligently to ensure we were providing the most accurate, up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 cases in Idaho. Our article with a map and several timelines and graphs provide a detailed look at Idaho COVID-19 cases, including if new daily cases are trending up or down. 

We track our numbers the same way the Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare does. However, we update our total number using the latest data available from the state's seven health districts as well, meaning our numbers may not always match with the state.

KTVB updates our running total once the state and local health districts have confirmed their total number of cases. See more details about how we track regional numbers ahead of the state releasing them here.

To see our most recent COVID-19 updates, click here.

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