Clock Tower

Out of the Clock Tower



Hello and welcome to the Greene County Archives' blog, "Out of the Clock Tower".  Please join us as we share information on archival issues, news, special events, and highlights from our collection.

Before the archives program began in Greene County in 1996, permanent records were stored in every conceivable space, in basements, garages, and closets. Usually they were in boxes of various shapes and sizes, although seldom adequately labeled, but occasionally they were just in loose piles of books and papers. Most notable were the old records stuffed into the clock tower of the County Courthouse, where they shared their home with pigeon droppings.

Now, there is a clean, environmentally controlled, well appointed location for the county archives, where our historical records are housed in standard sized boxes on steel shelves. We have taken note of their journey in the name for our blog.

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Jun 05

Pandemic Parallels: Lessons from History

Posted on June 5, 2020 at 8:56 AM by Melissa Dalton

As many have heard and read during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can draw many parallels to the 1918 flu pandemic. Even in our blog a couple of weeks ago, we briefly mentioned such similarities. So, one might ask, what are those similarities? What was learned and how did it inform current experts and health officials? This week, we explore those lessons learned and how that knowledge has shaped the response today.

The 1918 flu pandemic killed roughly 50 million people globally, with 675,000 of those deaths being within the United States. The virus had an unusually high death rate in healthy adults age 15 to 34 years, and to date, no other pandemic has resulted in a comparable death rate. Experts believe that the virulence had many contributing factors, including World War I. Troops were mobilized across the globe, and these soldiers were quartered in close spaces and in large numbers. The science to better understand the virus was lacking, and there was no vaccine or antiviral drugs. Additionally, many healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, etc.) were called to serve, which greatly limited and stressed health services. (Visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/basics/past-pandemics.html to learn about the flu pandemic and other past pandemics).

Although there were no coordinated efforts to mitigate the pandemic, local communities took their own measures, which we will recognize as measures we have taken to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic. The timeline of events is eerily similar. On October 4, 1918, a warning was issued by the City Health Director to avoid public gatherings (Fig 1). The Dayton Daily News reported that the flu was spreading throughout Ohio, with New York and Philadelphia also experiencing rapid spread (Fig 2). On October 5, 1918, Xenia Health Officials closed all public places, which included churches, schools, theaters, bars, and poolrooms (Fig 3) – resulting in one of the quietest days in history (Fig 4).

Fig 1. Warning Is Issued (Spanish Flu), Xenia Evening Gazette, 4 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 1. Warning Is Issued (Spanish influenza), Xenia Evening Gazette, 4 Oct 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 2. Influenza Spreads Throughout Ohio, Dayton Daily News, 4 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 2. Influenza Spreads Throughout Ohio, Dayton Daily News, 4 Oct 1918 (Newspapers.com)

Fig 3. All Public Places are Closed Here, Xenia Evening Gazette, 5 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 3. All Public Places are Closed Here, Xenia Evening Gazette, 5 Oct 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 4. Sunday One of Quietest Days in City History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 7 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 4. Sunday One of Quietest Days in City History, Xenia Evening Gazette, 7 Oct 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Almost immediately, health organizations were trying to find ways to limit spread, and masks were viewed as a good countermeasure (Fig 5). The Xenia Evening Gazette reported over 300 deaths in 24 hours in Chicago on October 16, 1918 (Fig 6). However, by the end of October, the State Health Department began working with Governor Cox on how to lift quarantine (Fig 7). Schools began to reopen in November/December of 1918, and businesses began to reopen. Many cities and municipalities required residents to wear masks in public (Fig 8).

Fig 5. Female Clerks in New York City Wear Masks at Work, National Archives (JPG)
Fig 5. Female clerks in New York City wear masks at work (National Archives Identifier 45499337)

Fig 6. Over 300 Die in Chicago in 24 Hours of the Influenza, Xenia Evening Gazette, 16 Oct 1918 (JPG
Fig 6. Over 300 Die in Chicago in 24 Hours of the Influenza, Xenia Evening Gazette, 16 Oct 1918 (NewspaperARHIVE.com)

Fig 7. Quarantine to be Lifted Slowly, Xenia Evening Gazette, 31 Oct 1918 (JPG)
Fig 7. Quarantine to be Lifted Slowly, Xenia Evening Gazette, 31 Oct 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

Fig 8. Flu Masks Must be Worn in Marion, Xenia Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 1918 (JPG)
Fig 8. Flue Masks Must be Worn in Marion, Xenia Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 1918 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)

As we read over these measures, the parallels are evident. On March 9, 2020, Governor DeWine declared a State of Emergency, and within the week, almost all public places were closed and deemed non-essential, including schools, public buildings, gyms, bars/restaurants, salons/barbershops, amusement parks, just to name a few. On March 22, 2020, a stay-at-home order was announced, which stayed in effect until May 1, 2020. Like in 1918, there has been quite an effort to find the right balance in reopening the state and protecting the public. Although there were three waves of the flu between 1918 and 1919, today, many state officials and experts are trying to put measures in place to mitigate a second wave of COVID-19.

We can see the parallels, and that is because experts have taken on the task of studying and understanding past pandemics, and finding what worked. It is in these times that we are reminded of the importance of documenting the past, and making strides to be good stewards of history.

Until Next Time.

Sources:
CDC.gov
National Archives
NewspaperARCHIVE.com
Newspapers.com


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