‘Epidemic conquered’? Not so fast

“On Nov. 10, 1918, a headline in The Asheville Citizen‘s editorial section declared: ‘An epidemic conquered.’ Evidence, the paper wrote, suggested overall cases of influenza were declining in the city. Within another week, the paper supposed, local health authorities would begin ‘the lifting of the various safeguards which have caused much inconvenience, it is true, but which, nevertheless, saved the community from the ravages of the scourge that has swept the world’….

“With restrictions loosened, influenza spread. On Dec. 1, 1918, The Sunday Citizen revealed that 32 new cases were reported within the previous 24 hours. The article continued:

“The health department states that the increase is undoubtedly due to the numerous gatherings and meetings of various kinds  held this last week. When it was announced that churches, schools and theatres would reopen, the board states, the majority took it for granted that all epidemic danger had passed and governed themselves accordingly. Health officials said little last night but they looked grave.”

— From “How wishful thinking helped spread the 1918 influenza” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (April 21, 2020)

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