It it times like these when we should look first into history for answers before we repeat the same mistakes. Case in point, the Governors, President, and others people in power make it sound like “flattening the curve” is a novel idea. It’s not. Been there, done that, mistakes were made. Only that was back in 1918, and few people know what happened.
National Geographic reported that story. It was 1918. There was a global pandemic. That time it was influenza. An unexpected outbreak that went global. A viral infection that overwhelmed the hospitals and which ultimately killed tens of millions of people.
Philadelphia detected its first case on September 17, 1918. The next day, in an attempt to halt the virus’ spread, city officials launched a campaign against coughing, spitting, and sneezing in public. Yet 10 days later—despite the prospect of an epidemic at its doorstep—the city hosted a parade that 200,000 people attended.
On October 3, schools, churches, theaters, and public gathering spaces were shut down. Just two weeks after the first reported case, there were at least 20,000 more.
That parade caused a huge spike of cases in Philadelphia, but other cities experienced spikes in cases and deaths as well. Most interestingly, a lot of cities saw not just one big spike, but multiple spikes of cases as social distancing was relaxed, giving the virus a chance to spread again.
The 1918 pandemic didn’t end until 1920. And in reality, it never went away, it just mutated into a less deadly series of variations that we now call “flu season.” A season that, despite a vaccine, infects 3-5 million people globally each year, annually killing 200,000-500,000 people.
My biggest hope for the Covid-19 pandemic is that this is the first and last time we see this virus in the world. My fear is that we’re talking in ten years about how bad the Covid-29 is in 2030.