Spokane and the Nation: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919

Headline: “City Acts to Stop Spread of Influenza”

Source: Spokane Daily Chronicle, October 9, 1918, page 1

Subject: Quarantine placed on public places throughout the city.

Synopsis: Most public places in Spokane have been closed because of the influenza epidemic.  A few of these places are: theatres, schools, and even Boys Scouts groups.  Public officials warn that the disease has killed “hundreds” in the east and may become dangerous in Spokane.

Notable Quotations:

• “The ordinance against expectorating on the sidewalks will be strictly enforced by the police and health officials.  ‘The disease is a mouth-to-mouth one, and the nose and throat are the means of communication,’ said Dr. Anderson.”

• “The order will inconvenience many people and many lines of business, but this can not be helped. The influenza, once an epidemic starts, causes deaths and suffering.”

• “The reading rooms at the public libraries will be closed, but readers will be allowed to take out and return books. No dancing in restaurants will be allowed.”

“City Acts to Stop Spread of Influenza”

All Places of Public Gathering Are Closed by Municipal and County Authorities – Similar Order May Hit Whole State.

         All places of public gathering in Spokane, including schools, churches, theaters, dances, lodges and conventions are closed today by order of Dr. J.B. Anderson, city health officer, in an effort to prevent the spread of an influenza epidemic with which the city is threatened.

         Schools and public gatherings throughout the county were also closed by order of Dr. A.E. Stuht, county physician.

Effective Indefinitely.

         The order, which was issued after Drs. Anderson and Stuht had consulted with a number of physicians, including the selective service medical advisory board, will be effective for an indefinite period and embraces every public gathering of any kind.

         There is strong likelihood that a similar order affecting the entire state will be issued today by the state board of health, which is in session on the coast. Dr. C.P. McCarthy, a member of the board, left last night for Seattle to be present at the meeting.

         In a long-distance telephone conversation with Dr. Anderson late last night Dr. T.D. Tuttle, state health commissioner, stated that alarming reports of the spread of the disease throughout the state were received yesterday and that, if reports were of the same nature today, a rigid closing order would be issued.

         There are between 100 and 125 cases of influenza scattered throughout the city at present, according to physicians’ reports to Dr. Anderson.

         Practically, all of the cases are of mild form and but one new case of pneumonia has been reported during the past 24 hours.

         “The health department can not afford to take chances,” said Dr. Anderson this morning in explanation of his order. “The disease, which has caused hundreds of deaths in the east, is communicated from one person to another and, where people meet in any number, there are greater chances of its spread.

         “So far there has been no case of the virulent type of the disease, and we hope there will be none. However, the number of cases is abnormal and for the protection of the public the closing order was inevitable.”

         “Every public gathering is banned. This includes the public schools, business schools, and private schools, church meetings or church societies, dancing parties and public dances, public funerals, vaudeville and motion picture theaters, conventions, lodge meetings, women’s club or neighborhood club meetings, meetings of civic societies, including the chamber of commerce and other such organizations.

Won’t Stop Armory Drills.

         “Military drills at the armory will not be prohibited. We have no jurisdiction over the national guard or regularly organized military companies and will not interfere with the civilian school of military training if drills are held out of doors.

“The public will not be admitted to sessions of the police court or other courts.

         “Meetings of committees of the chamber of commerce and other such organizations will be permitted as long as committee members afflicted with bad colds or influenza remain away. At the first violation of the spirit of the order these meetings will also be prohibited.

         “The Y.M.C.A., S.A.A.C. and other clubs will not be interfered with as long as no classes or gatherings of the members are held.

         “The order will inconvenience many people and many lines of business, but this can not be helped. The influenza, once an epidemic starts, causes deaths and suffering. These we wish to avoid and it is hoped that persons affected by the order will take the regulations in good grace until the time danger is passed. Violators of the order will be summarily arrested and prosecuted.

Don’t Spit on Street.

         “To help in the preventative campaign do not spit on the street or in public places.

         “Sneeze into your handkerchief.

         “Treat colds the minute they appear.

         “Ventilate your homes and offices and report suspicious cases to the health department at once.”

         The health office was besieged with dozens of anxious visitors and a hundred or more telephone calls this morning. Persons in all lines of business wanted to know if they were affected by the order, what means of treatment to use against the disease, whether to send their children to school, all manner of questions and complaints. Every official and employee of the health department was rushed with the sudden press of business.

Nurses on the Job.

         Graduate nurses and women who have taken the Red Cross first aid nursing course are being mobilized for a possible emergency. This work is under direction of Miss Ethel Butts of the Deaconess hospital and Mrs. Ben Kizer of the Red Cross.

         The county medical association will meet tonight to consider means to be used in preventing the spread of the disease and Dr. Anderson, Dr. A.E. Stuht, county physician; Miss Butts, Mrs. Kizer and Miss Beatrice Short, president of the graduate nurses’ association, met this afternoon as a Red Cross committee on relief work.

         The ordinance against expectorating on the sidewalks will be strictly enforced by the police and health officials.

         “The disease is a mouth-to-mouth one, and the nose and throat are the means of communication,” said Dr. Anderson.

         Employees of the railroads on incoming trains have been ordered to report any cases of influenza they observe. Such cases will be reported to the health department at once by the railroad men.

Stop Jury Trials.

         Dr. Anderson late this morning issued an order to the superior judges prohibiting jury trials at the courthouse and the judges have agreed to the regulation. Only such cases where a jury has already been empaneled will be tried and in all trials spectators are excluded from the courtroom and any attendant who coughs or sneezes during court will be excluded.

         The reading rooms at the public libraries will be closed, but readers will be allowed to take out and return books. No dancing in restaurants will be allowed. Kindergartens are under the ban, but the Women’s Club day nursery will be kept open under strict supervision of an attendant.

         There was some trouble early this morning at several of the different schools, where a misunderstanding of the order or lack of knowledge on the part of the teachers existed. This was corrected and every school was tightly closed at 10 o’clock.

[The following information appeared in the newspaper as a sidebar accompaning this article.]

Influenza Situation.

Theaters, schools and business colleges close.

Gonzaga non-military classes suspend.

Mining stock exchange closes.

Lodges call-off meetings.

Scottish Rite Masons postpone fall reunion.

Shrines postpone ceremonial plans.

Ad club calls off annual election meeting.

Jury trials in superior court suspend.

All high and grade night schools close.

Woman’s club postpones meeting.

Social affairs for soldiers called off.

Boy Scouts will not meet.

Y.M.C.A. stops all activities.

All churches closed.

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S.A.A.C. continues work.

Civilian military school operates.

High school open air athletics continue.

Gonzaga military work operates.

Spokane university is open.