Learning From the 1918 Pandemic: Day 5

1918 Influenza Pandemic Day 5 (first entry)

The first case of influenza appears at Fort Devens in Massachusetts five days ago, regarded (for our purposes on this blog) as Day 1. Similar outbreaks are occurring across the Atlantic in Europe. The Fort Devens case is the first US case inland from naval facilities in Boston. A team of experts plans to travel to Devens to examine conditions. The situation isn’t entirely new; months earlier in the spring, influenza was in several Eastern and Midwestern communities. No panic ensued; it’s seasonal, people thought. Now, on Day 5, Dr. Royal Copeland (shown above), health commissioner in New York City, orders the NYC Port placed under quarantine. People who had traveled there on passenger ships are already sick. Copeland’s hope on Day 5 is that quarantine might contain influenza and promote calm.

A bridging thought from Day 5, 1918 for you on Day 5, March 17, 2020, five days after President Trump declared Covid-19 as a national emergency—three dynamics are in play at the same time: individual (illness acquired person to person and addressed person to person); community (entire cities and towns attempt to deal with the illness); and national or trans-national (nations on separate continents afflicted with the spreading illness). Triple-leveled speed feels overwhelming.