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

Headline: “Extend Flu Ban At Once”

Source: Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 6, 1918, page 1

Subject: Resumption of quarantine; public meeting of health board

Synopsis:  Due to the renewal of the epidemic in Spokane, a modified quarantine is in effect for the city. Theaters must close for two hours every night to air out the building. No buildings can be filled beyond capacity. Churches are allowed only one service a week. Elevators must only be filled to half capacity. Tensions flared at a public meeting of the city health board, with some citizens expressing their opinion that the city be shut down. Other speakers expressed their opinions about a full quarantine. The meeting adjourned with a unanimous motion expressing their faith in the health board to make the right decision.

Notable Quotations:

• “No church or theater will be allowed to put on a special service or program of any kind to attract a crowd. Community singing also comes under the ban.”

• “All windows of the council chamber were opened to admit fresh air in the room and many men, chilled, kept their hats and coats on. There were a number of women in the audience, a few of them taking part in the discussion.”

• “‘The closing of the churches is an insult in the face of God,’ said Rev. R.T.T. Hicks of the Episcopal church, who made an impassioned appeal to the people to trust in divine guidance and care in fighting what he determined ‘a plague brought on by ourselves.’”

“Extend Flu Ban At Once”

Theaters to Close in Early Evening – Watch Stores.

            A modified influenza quarantine order was issued this afternoon by Health Officer J.B. Anderson, after being authorized by the city board of health.

            In the future there will be only one church service allowed at each Spokane church each week, and no singing at any time. The service must be held in the morning.

            No persons are to be admitted to churches or theaters beyond the seating capacity of the building. No church or theater will be allowed to put on a special service or program of any kind to attract a crowd. Community singing also comes under the ban.

            Theaters are required to close between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. to air out the theater building.

            Stores and business houses must not permit crowding of customers at any time and, if necessary, must keep officers on duty to keep the crowds moving.

            All public and private dances are absolutely forbidden. None but necessary business meetings of civic, social, lodge or professional organizations are to be allowed.

            No passenger shall be allowed on a street car when there is not a seat for him, and the transoms over the street cars are to be kept open.

Limit on Elevators.

            Elevators must carry only half the normal capacity of passengers. Business colleges and such institutions will be allowed to continue their sessions under strict regulations as outlined by the health department.

            Where business meetings are absolutely necessary, only the executive board will be permitted to meet and transact the business.

Many at Conference.

            Nearly as many opinions on how to control the influenza epidemic as there were speakers were voiced at a public meeting of the health board at the city hall this morning.

            At one time a near riot which finally required the attention of the police took place. The disturbance occurred when certain persons in the audience took exception to a remark of Attorney D.B. Heil, member of the school board, who advocated a limited ban.

            In the course of his talk Mr. Heil stated, while he favored a strict quarantine, he did “not mean the closing of legitimate business.” Hooting, hissing and cat-calling came from the back of the room and one man had to be cautioned by Police Sergeant Daniel to keep quiet or leave the room.

            The police officer was then instructed by President Charles Fleming to remove any persons who interrupted a speaker.

Attacks Doctors’ Methods.

            Another interesting feature of the meeting was an attack on the medical profession of the city by Dr. Frank Moore, a chiropractor, who claimed to have an absolute cure for influenza and differed in every way from the modes of treatment suggested by the other physicians.

            Coordination of effort on the part of all the relief organizations of the city in caring for the influenza epidemic victims and the question of what sort of a quarantine should be placed on the city, if any, were the principal topics of discussion.

            There was a demand on the part of theater managers and employes [sic] that the department and other stores be closed if the theaters and billiard rooms are banned.

            Physicians, including Dr. Frederick Eppien, Dr. H.P. Marshall and others favored a ban, immediate and strict. Dr. Marshall, who is president of the state medical society, also advocated a personal quarantine of influenza patients, if practicable. Dr. Anderson stated that a quarantine, although theoretically proper and a good thing, would be impossible to enforce.

            All windows of the council chamber were opened to admit fresh air in the room and many men, chilled, kept their hats and coats on. There were a number of women in the audience, a few of them taking part in the discussion.

Monten Has a Plan.

            Attorney W.A. Monten was the first speaker. He advanced the theory that the relief situation and not a quarantine is the paramount question at this time. “Correlate all the agencies of relief,” said Mr. Monten, “so that they will not work at cross purposes as they are doing at present. Keep the health office open night and day. Keep a record of the name of every influenza victim. Organize the service of the doctors and nurses better than it is now. Use the dentists of the city, all of whom have had some medical training and can give emergency treatment.”

            “The closing of the churches is an insult in the face of God,” said Rev. R.T.T. Hicks of the Episcopal church, who made an impassioned appeal to the people to trust in divine guidance and care in fighting what he determined “a plague brought on by ourselves.” Mr. Hicks also gave credit to the physicians of the city for the work they are doing.

One Service a Week.

            Rev. George W. Knepper assured the health board and Dr. Anderson that the downtown churches of the city would support to the limit any quarantine designed to combat the disease, but pleaded that the churches be allowed one Sunday morning service a week.

            Attorney Heil stated that while the other ban was on there was little influenza among the school children, but that as soon as the ban was lifted, the children began to come down with the disease. He said that the closing of the schools was costing the public $3000 daily.

            “If the quarantine helped to protect the school children, why keep a general quarantine off at this time?” asked Mr. Heil.

            B.H. Kizer, an attorney, appealed to the audience for support for the health department and the physicians of the city, who, he said, are better equipped, through their professional knowledge, to handle the situation. Mr. Kizer condemned what he termed “the spirit of intolerance” displayed by the public at large when the public is not qualified to know what action to take.

Had Quarantine Before.

            Dr. J.E. Gandy advocated quarantine and isolation of influenza patients.

            “In the epidemic of 1890-1891,” said Dr. Gandy, “the quarantine method was used and with success. Keep the infected persons away from the public.”

            “The mechanical difficulties of such a quarantine are insurmountable,” said Dr. Frederick Eppien. “As long as people come in contact with each other in the city of Spokane the disease is going to spread. All we can hope to do is to so spread it out over its course that the professional and nursing forces can handle it.”

Could Cure Them Quick.

            Dr. Fred F. Moore, chiropractor, attacked the diagnosis and methods of allopathic physicians, stating that he could cure any case of influenza in three days.

            George Phillips stated his confidence in the health board and Dr. Anderson and made an appeal for all persons who can render aid during the epidemic to notify the Red Cross.

            “Absolute isolation of a person infected with influenza is desirable,” said Dr. H.P. Marshal, [sic] “and also the temporary isolation of all persons exposed to the disease. When you do not permit crowds you reduce materially the chance of the epidemic’s spread as it is a mass disease, transmitted from one person to another. For that reason a modified quarantine would be a good thing.”

Hard to Quarantine.

            When called upon by Commissioner Fleming to address the meeting, Dr. Anderson, who had previously taken no part other than that of a listener, stated that an individual quarantine of the disease, while in theory very good practice, is impossible at present.

            “We have not the nurses and the doctors are overworked,” said Dr. Anderson. “Some way must be found to combat the disease without taxing any further the resources we have.

            “Influenza is a matter of individual responsibility. Flock by yourself. Observe the simplest rules of health. When you take cold, go home, go to bed and stay there, with plenty of fresh air and the room at an even temperature. Do not get chilled and call a doctor if you think you need him. Do not worry if he does not get there for hours after he says he will. Very likely it is impossible. Avoid a morbid dread of the disease.”

Leave It to Board.

            The meeting ended when D.L. Huntington stated that it might continue all day with as many opinions expressed as there were persons attending. He moved that the matter of any action toward a quarantine be left to Dr. Anderson and the health board and asked that the motion be a vote of confidence in the ability and judgment of the health officer and the board. The motion was carried unanimously.