Bethlehem “blanket quarantine”? Been there, done that

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Gadfly is a (literary) historian by trade. The past always beckons him. In this period of coronavirus, he could consult the files of the Bethlehem Globe on the local impact of the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic if the Lehigh University library were open. Sigh. Gadfly does have access to Morning Call files from home, however, and he will see what they yield. For now, here’s all he finds in perhaps the main modern history of Bethlehem.

004

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: The Golden Years, 1841-1920 (1976)

What do we see here?

  • In Bethlehem, hospital capacity eventually was not sufficient.
  • And satellite space was needed.
  • Washington School? Where was Washington School?
  • Case numbers escalated quickly to the danger point — within a month.
  • Interestingly, we had no Board of Health — remember that Bethlehem was only born as a city in 1917, inauguration of the first mayor occurred only 9 months before the outbreak.
  • By god, there was a blanket quarantine — a shelter in place.
  • Like now, schools were closed.
  • The list of other closings mentioned specifically includes watering holes and other fun entertainment and food gathering places.
  • So what exactly does “blanket quarantine” mean? Were non-essential businesses closed? Were people advised to stay home?
  • We need to remember that a war was going on!
  • The duration of the shutdown was about a month.
  • Exact number of deaths unknown.
  • I wonder where victims of the disease were buried — Roy, at Fairview?
  • Interestingly, the Southsiders handled the crisis differently.

Wow! Gadfly would love more granular detail about day-to-day life in our town during this time. He can’t wait till he can get to the Globe. Anybody have suggestions for other resources?

But let’s see what the files of the Morning Call yield.

In the meantime, is there any family lore in the memory banks of long-time city residents that you can share?

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