The Los Angeles Times published an article on April 19, 2020, entitled “California lessons from the 1918 pandemic: San Francisco dithered; Los Angeles acted and saved lives”
Here’s my summary:
In the current COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco was about a week ahead of Los Angeles in responding. This is the exact opposite of what happened in 1918 in response to the Spanish Flu.
In 1918, in Los Angeles, the first signs of a second peak arrived mid-September 1918, when Sailors on a navy ship at the San Pedro Naval Base fell ill. By Oct 11, Los Angeles moved to close down bars, pool halls, movie theaters, sporting events, church services and included an order to stop filming mob scenes for movies under production.
Los Angeles stuck to its more rigorous social distancing response, despite considerable pushback. Religious leaders questioned the constitutionality of closing churches, and the Ninth Church of Christ Scientist, on South New Hampshire Street, reopened, only to see its leaders promptly arrested. Los Angeles did not require masks except for those in contact with the sick. Civic groups were successful in getting hotel rooms set aside for the poor and infirm. Los Angeles lifted its social distancing restrictions on Dec 2.
The first influenza case appeared in San Francisco about the same time. They did not shut down “All Places of Public Amusement” until Oct 18, but even then they did not include churches, who continued to meet. In San Francisco, they went big on masks ordering everyone to wear a mask on Oct 25. Those who did not were fined $5. San Franciscan lifted social Distancing on Nov 16. On Nov 21 at noon the requirement to wear masks was lifted.
In all Los Angeles was practicing social distancing 23 days longer than San Francisco and in LA the social distancing rules were stronger. However, a quick surge in Los Angeles led to a re-closing of schools which remained closed until February 1919. San Francisco also had a quick surge and ordered masks back in place on Jan 10 which would remain in place until February.
Los Angeles experienced an excess death rate (The number of deaths above yearly expectations) of 494 per 100,000 residents. San Francisco experienced 673 excess deaths per 100,000.
In the current COVID-19 pandemic San Francisco started mandatory social distancing on March 11. Los Angeles followed on March 15, but San Francisco’s social distancing rules have been stricter. The resulting difference in death rates between Los Angles and San Francisco is a direct result of San Francisco’s earlier start on Social Distancing.