Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
MEDITATIONS ON PANDEMICS
I was reading an article last night in THE WEEK, my trusted weekly news magazine, about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. No one is alive today who remembers that pandemic, but the historical records exist, and the parallels to today are strong. Like the current Coronavirus that is causing so much havoc in the world, Spanish Flu was a novel virus to which no one had natural immunity. And, like today, weird rumors circulated. One was that the Spanish Flu was artificially introduced by German spies who sneaked into the U.S. aboard U-boats.
Some major cities in the U.S. shut down everything when Spanish Flu arrived, and did well. Philadelphia refused to cancel their war parade, which was held on September 28, 1918. A crowd of over 200,000 packed the streets and cheered. Within three days, every hospital bed in Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals was filled. Within a week 45,000 people were diagnosed with the disease and the city belatedly shut down. But the shutdown was too late, the damage already done. By the second week of November, 12,000 people were dead, just in Philadelphia! Bodies “were stacked like cordwood.”. Public health nurses walked into tenements and found whole families dead. Bodies were piled up on sidewalks after the morgue filled and shut down. Within six months, 16,000 were dead, and half a million sick in Philadelphia alone. By the time the Spanish Flu played out, more than 675,000 people were dead in the United States.
Researchers have found that cities that acted early and aggressively, quarantining the sick, and shutting down schools, churches, theaters, and other public places, saw 50% lower death rates. Milwaukee, which acted early and aggressively, had a death rate of only 0.6 %, the lowest of any U.S. city. St. Louis, which cancelled its parade had a death rate one-eighth that of Philadelphia.
This reinforces the fact that reopening the economy now, which Mr. Trump and most politicians seem to want, may be a terrible mistake.
A study published this year on the 1918 pandemic shows that “cities that acted early and aggressively to impose social distancing to limit the spread of Spanish Flu actually performed better economically after the pandemic was over than those that did not.” Fewer workers had died and the local economies bounced back sooner.
Here in Virginia, our Governor, who is a medical doctor, has faced intense political pressure for insisting on keeping restrictions in place until July, but I think he has made the right decisions, based on medical reality and not political expediency.
Some places like Singapore and Hong Kong, where restrictions were relaxed early, have seen rebounding infection rates. Others, like Taiwan and South Korea, who kept restrictions in place longer, have fared much better, with exceptionally low infection rates.
Where did this damned virus come from? The highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, says evidence that it came from the Huanan Seafood Market is “shaky,” and points to the nearby virology lab, which had already been criticized for inadequate protective measures, and speculates that the virus escaped the lab through poor waste disposal or in the body of an infected lab worker. If it came from that government lab, responsibility for this plague must rest solely on the shoulders of the Chinese government, which should be made to take full responsibility for the economic havoc it has caused.
Meanwhile, the King of Thailand is riding out the pandemic in a German luxury hotel, where he is ensconced with his twenty concubines. Must be nice to be a king!
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/nude-photography/