Posts Tagged ‘Rochester Beacon’

Rochester, NY, and the 1918 influenza pandemic

April 8, 2020

Alex Zapesochny, publisher of the on-line Rochester Beacon, wrote an interesting article about how Rochester, N.Y., coped with the 1918 influenza epidemic.  He pointed out that our city did much better than its peers.

Source: Rochester Beacon

Source: Rochester Beacon

Zapesochny went on to explain how Rochester public officials and business leaders acted promptly, before the pandemic was upon them.

Shortly after being warned by the state that a possible influenza epidemic was coming, Rochester began preparing, even though it had only two unconfirmed cases at the time.

A separate ward to take care of potential patients was set up at Rochester General Hospital.

By Oct. 9, Rochester’s commissioner of public safety announced the closure of all schools, as well as theaters and skating rinks.

Next, the city and the Chamber of Commerce asked manufacturing and retail business to stagger hours to prevent overcrowding on trolley cars.

Soon after the city closed churches, bars and “ice cream parlors.”  

In the meantime, five makeshift hospitals were set up around Rochester to augment the capacity of local hospitals, which would otherwise have been overwhelmed by the 10,000 influenza cases that occurred in October 1918.

Toward the end of October, as the number of cases started falling, residents and workers pushed the health commissioner to quickly lift the restrictions, especially to help those whose livelihoods were being affected.  

Despite being sympathetic to their request, the health commissioner acted carefully again, waiting another week before finally lifting the restrictions.

In other words, local officials in 1918 were doing many of the same things we see being done in Rochester today.

And while each epidemic has its unique dynamics, the one thing 1918 clearly teaches us is that different approaches by local officials can yield very different results. 

LINK

A lifesaving lesson from 1918 by Alex Zapesochny for the Rochester Beacon.