How U.S. Cities Tried to Halt the Spread of the Spanish Flu
In the late summer/early fall of 1918 the second wave of the Spanish flu arrived in the US. St Louis put strong social distancing rules in place early. In Philadelphia they delayed implementing social distancing. Result: The peak mortality rate in St. Louis was only one-eighth of Philadelphia’s.
In Philadelphia the public health director claimed it was only the regular seasonal flu. He refused to cancel the upcoming Liberty Loan Parade scheduled for September 28th. Just 72 hours after the parade all of Philadelpia’s hospitals were full and about 2,600 people died by the end of the week.
In St Louis the Health Commissioner Dr Max Starkloff urged people to avoid crowds. When there was a flu outbreak at a neraby military barrack they closed schools, theaters and pool halls and banned all public gatherings.
In San Francisco gauze masks were required, but the masks were most likely not the contributing factor to the low rate of infection. The quarantine of all military bases and the closing of all schools and place of public amusement and banning most social gatherings was most likely what made the difference. However, Los Angeles had stricter social distancing rules which resulted in a lower total death rate.
The full article can be found at https://www.history.com/news/spanish-flu-pandemic-response-cities