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The 1918 Flu Pandemic Changes Daily Routines

Beginning in August 1918, the flu spread to all parts of the United States in just six weeks.  By the time the epidemic ended, more than 50,000 of the 20 million people who contracted the disease had died.

Fresh air was considered a preventive.  Public transportation used open trolley cars without sides, aisles, doors or windows despite the fall and winter weather.  Crowding was not permitted.  It was recommended to open windows at home and the office when possible.  No spectators were allowed to attend a football game in Portland.

Spacing regulations required cafeterias to maintain a distance of 4 feet between customers.  Libraries had similar regulations and removed all chairs to prevent crowds and loitering. 

A requirement that everyone wear masks outside became controversial when doctors pointed out a filthy mask was less protection than fresh air.

The Portland Oregonian newspaper printed daily state statistics by city.  On Oct. 22, Ashland had seven new cases, Grants Pass had three.  From October 1918 to September 1920, Oregon had 48,146 cases with 3,675 deaths.

 

Source: Woolley, Ivan M. "The 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic in Oregon." Oregon Historical Journal 64.3 (1963). Print.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.