The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide or about one-third of the world population. It killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million stricken by the virus, including more than 675,000 Americans.
The 1918 flu was first observed in Europe, the United States and parts of Asia before swiftly spreading around the world. At the time, there were no drugs or vaccines to treat the flu strain. Citizens were ordered to wear masks, schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues before the virus ended.
“As the death toll surged, the government struggled to respond. Meanwhile, a national election loomed. [The Spanish Flu] was a far deadlier disease than COVID-19, where fatalities have – so far – tended to be among the older generation and those with underlying health conditions. But despite the differences, the parallels between 1918 and what is happening in 2020 are stark.”
PANDEMIC HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF IN ALBUQUERQUE
On Friday, May 8, the Albuquerque Journal published a guest column that is a fascinating read written by Samuel Truett, the Director of the Department of History at the UNM Center for the Southwest. As the saying goes, history does indeed repeat itself and the Truett column is proof of that. Below is the column in full followed by the Journal link to it:
HEADLINE: So when should Duke City reopen?
BY SAMUEL TRUETT / DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR THE SOUTHWEST, UNM
Friday, May 8th, 2020
“When should Duke City reopen? That was the question the Albuquerque Journal posed after two months of enforced shutdowns and social distancing in the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
The pandemic hit the U.S. in spring, but a more brutal second wave swept west in September 1918, hitting Albuquerque in early October. On October 5, City Manager A. R. Hebenstreit placed the city under quarantine, shutting schools, churches and theaters. Officials urged parents to keep children in their yards, posted placards on doors of the infected, and began to tally cases and deaths.
It was a solution riddled with holes. Neighbors broke quarantine to visit one another. Residents and family doctors removed placards prematurely. Physicians neglected to report cases. Locals fretted about the economic costs of social distancing, and many worried about rumors the Duke City might be closed until January 1919.
On Nov. 14, after prolonged debate, city commissioners and board of health officers agreed to reopen Albuquerque on Dec. 2. Some wanted to end the quarantine immediately. Others were less sanguine, pointing to a spike in cases after celebrations of the armistice on Nov. 11.
The Albuquerque Journal took the question to the streets. When should the Duke City reopen? Opinions were divided. City Manager Hebenstreit said he hoped for Dec. 2, knowing that quarantines had been prematurely lifted elsewhere. If conditions should worsen, he warned, “the public should be prepared for restrictions such as have never before been witnessed in Albuquerque.”
“I’d rather have my child in school than out under existing conditions,” responded the Albuquerque banker J.E. Herndon. “The present quarantine is a farce.”
Physicians were more prudent, but even they were divided. Old-timers W.G. Hope and P.G. Cornish felt the quarantine could be safely lifted. The young, up-and-coming William Randolph Lovelace felt differently. “The quarantine should be made more stringent,” he insisted. “Masks should be worn in all public places, such as stores and offices.”
Rabbi Moise Bergman, who ran an emergency hospital for flu victims, echoed Lovelace. “It is hard to answer the man who says his business has been hurt by the quarantine,” he observed, “but it will be impossible to answer the one who says ‘My child has died because of the neglect of the state.’”
The flu pandemic was about to run its course, but Albuquerque residents could not know this yet in November 1918. After the quarantine was lifted on Dec. 1 – one day earlier, to let locals attend church – new cases and deaths trickled in. Yet the quarantine was never restored.
In the end, the city took a gamble, based as much on political calculation as on science. The story resonates with ours, even if details are different. Both the virus and the science have changed, even if human responses may seem eerily familiar. In 1918, Albuquerque faced a brutal second pandemic wave. We are still in the early stages of our story. Now, as then, the future is uncertain.
How will we respond?”
The link to the Journal is here:
WHITE HOUSE NOT IMMUNE IN 1918 AND NOT IN 2020
1918 WOODROW WILSON WHITE HOUSE
With one-quarter of the US and one-fifth of the world infected with the Spanish flu, it was not surprising that it hit the Woodrow Wilson White House. Wilson’s personal secretary was among the first in his administration to be sickened by a pandemic and Wilson’s eldest daughter Margaret got the Spanish Flu as did a Secret Service Agent.
Even President Woodrow Wilson suffered from the flu in early 1919 while negotiating the crucial treaty of Versailles to end World War I. In April 1919, Wilson traveled to the Paris Peace Conference for talks on ending the World War I. Soon after arriving, Wilson become ill with a fever and violent fits of coughing that left him nearly unable to breathe. Wilson was so ill that the talks were nearly derailed. The president could not even sit up in bed. The talks went on with Wilson relying on deputies before he recovered and was able to return to face-to-face talks.
Wilson’s administration worked furiously to keep Wilson’s diagnosis a secret. Wilson’s Chief of staff told reporters that Wilson had a cold and just needed some rest, blaming the president’s illness on the rainy weather in Paris. Meanwhile, Wilson’s condition worsened and he began acting strange. “Generally predictable in his actions, Wilson began blurting unexpected orders,” A. Scott Berg wrote in his biography of Wilson. “Twice he created a scene over pieces of furniture that had suddenly disappeared,” even though the furniture had not moved. Wilson also thought he was surrounded by spies.” Wilson did recover from the flu, but a few months later he had a stroke.
Woodrow Wilson was President for two terms and served from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921. Wilson suffered a severe stroke in October 1919 and was incapacitated for the remainder of his presidency. He retired from public office in 1921 and died in 1924 from heart complications.
2020 DONALD J. TRUMP WHITE HOUSE
On May 7, it was reported that a member of the US Navy who serves as one of President Donald Trump’s personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus raising concerns about the President’s possible exposure to the virus. The valets are members of an elite military unit dedicated to the White House and often work very close to the President and first family. Trump was upset when he was informed Wednesday that the valet had tested positive, a source told CNN, and the President was subsequently tested again by the White House physician.
On May 8, it was reported that Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, has tested positive for coronavirus. She is the wife to top Trump aide Steven Miller and she is in constant close proximity to the vice president. It’s not clear when Miller, who is also the wife to top Trump aide Steven Miller, last interacted with the president or vice president, but a CBS News story confirmed she was within close proximity to the vice president.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force went into self-isolation for two weeks after possible exposure to the illness. They include Dr Anthony Fauci, who has become the public face of the fight against the virus in the US.
On May 12, the White House directed all officials who work in the West Wing to wear masks at all times inside the building except when sitting at their own desk.
ACCELERATED EFFORTS TO FIND A VACCINE
News agencies are reporting that the medical research to find a vaccine for the corona virus is being expedited by medical researchers, and a vaccine just may be a few months away. Normally, the development of a vaccine takes years, not months.
According to the Milken Institute, an independent economic think tank in California, there are currently more than 40 clinical trials around the word attempting to find a vaccine for the corona virus. A joint $1 billion collaboration agreement has been announced by the U.S. government and Johnson & Johnson on March 30 to develop a vaccine. The approaches are varied, but all involve training the body’s immune system to recognize and remember the virus and produce antibodies to fight the disease.
A vaccine would normally take years, if not decades, to develop. Researchers hope to achieve the same amount of work in only a few months. Most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021, about 12-18 months after the new virus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, first emerged. That would be a huge scientific feat and there are no guarantees it will work.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The 1918 Spanish Flu ultimately kill 50 million people worldwide, and killing 675,000 Americans. The estimated population of the United States 1918 was some 103 million so approximately 0.5 percent of the US population died as a result of the epidemic. Worldwide, the death toll from the Spanish flu is generally put at 20 million.
As of May 8, 2020, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University over 3.9 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19,. Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country. The current population of the United States is over 330 Million, with more than 1.2 million diagnosed cases and at least 76,706 deaths.
NEW MEXICO’S REOPENING PLAN
By all accounts, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing a better job than most Governor’s in the country to get a handle on the pandemic in New Mexico and taking the necessary steps to protect all New Mexicans. She has received extensive criticism from many and not surprisingly from Republican elected officials, but she still is holding the course as she should when it comes to re- opening the state.
A recent poll reflects that the general public are indeed pleased with how Lujan Grisham has handled the public health crisis. On Apr 24, 2020, “The Majority Institute – Public Policy Polling” released its newest New Mexico survey. It found that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has a 62% approval rating for her handling of the coronavirus, to only 26% who disapprove for a net +36 rating. The timeline for the state’s phased in reopening plan is dependent on when certain criteria are met. Social distancing measures will be mandated to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases The Governor’s “phase in” business reopening plan includes at least 3 major phases:
– All individuals instructed to stay home
– Industry Councils to develop COVID safe practices (CSP)
– Define how businesses will protect employees and customers
– Vulnerable individuals instructed to stay home
– Some non-essential businesses permitted to reopen in compliance with CSPs.
– Certain businesses will still be closed
Phase Two and Beyond
– Additional businesses permitted to reopen in compliance with CSPs.
– Larger gatherings and events still restricted for the foreseeable future
– Other changes to be announced
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM ANNOUNCES MODIFIED PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS
On Wednesday, May 13, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham announced that on Saturday, May 16, New Mexico, with a few exceptions will take the next steps to slowly reopen businesses. The change does not apply to the counties of Cibola County, McKinley County or San Juan County due to the high rate or COVID-19 cases. The three counties will, instead, enter the “preparation phase.”
According to Lujan Grisham, New Mexico is on track with enough data to begin easing into re-opening and move into Phase 1. During the briefing at the state capital, the Governor had this to say:
“We’re going to demand in New Mexico that science guide every decision we make. … We don’t want to go backwards and shut everything down.”
For news coverage on the modified public health order allowing businesses to reopen with limitations see the below link:
After well over a hundred years and even with all the medical advances made during that time, the scariest similarity between the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the 2020 Corona Virus Pandemic is that no vaccine has been found. Even with the accelerated effort being undertaken to find a vaccine for the corona virus, most experts think a vaccine is likely to become available by mid-2021. Until then, many are expecting a major surge in cases and deaths this winter.
The clear and unmistakable results are that Governor Lujan has been successful in “flattening the curve” with all of what she has done and ordered. The state is making significant progress, but there is still a way to go given the fact that increases in cases is still being projected. New Mexico appears to be inching closer to reopening. The Governor also sent the clear message that in a real sense, it’s all on use to make sure we do are part and follow the social distancing rules, especially wearing masks, when the state is fully opened for business. Otherwise we may looking at another major surge in the Winter months.
We all must do our part and protect ourselves and others from the virus and not act like a bunch of fools. We all need to practice social distancing, wear masks and follow the guidelines. This is the new norm until a vaccine is found.