Thursday, August 13, 2020
Americans Poked Holes in Their Masks During the Spanish Influenza
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Saturday, July 4, 2020
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

In many ways, the Spanish influenza pandemic that rocked the world between 1918 and 1920 wasn’t so different from today’s novel coronavirus pandemic.

Mask-wearing ordinances were enacted throughout the country, especially in Western cities like Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Phoenix.

The Red Cross made and distributed masks of gauze, which was what surgical masks were made of at the time, writes Becky Little in History. Seattle women wore what they called “influenza veils”—fashionable masks made of fine mesh with chiffon borders.

It is, of course, dubious that these fashionable pieces did little to prevent the spread of flu.

That said, compliance was high. At least 80 percent of people wore masks in public and those who didn’t wear masks were called “dangerous slackers” and charged with disturbing the peace. The penalty? A fine or jail.

There’s no word on what Americans thought about those who poked holes in their masks so they smoke.

After the first wave, the virus subsided and Americans who were restless to reopen businesses and resume their social life began balking at wearing face masks.

In January 1919, when flu cases began to surge again in San Francisco, the city implemented a second mask order.

This mandate, however was met with resistance. In fact, in 1919 a few physicians and at least one member of the Board of Supervisors formed The Anti-Mask League. It reportedly got as many as 4,000 members—all professing that the public health ordinance mandating face coverings violated their liberties.

We already know the rest of the story. The virus came back with a vengeance in fall—perhaps, caused by a mutated virus. The second wave was deadlier than the first wave. All told, the influenza killed more than 675,000 Americans and an estimated 20 million to 50 million people worldwide.

And what became of the masks?

Well, mask wearing did not catch on, except among little boys and girls emulating the Lone Ranger, whoh would gallop onto the scene in 1949. But people did begin to use handkerchiefs and Kleenex more regularly because of the pandemic, according to the History article.

IDAHO SETS ANOTHER SINGLE-DAY HIGH

Idaho's number of coronavirus cases didn't take a holiday on Friday like so many of Gem State citizens did. The state posted 401 new cases for 6,994 total. The state added one more death bringing the death count to 93.

Blaine County recorded one new case bringing its total to 539.

 

 

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