The hammer drops on a “badly infected” Bethlehem

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

On October 2, 1918, as we reported last post, in tall, all-bold letters in a commanding top-right position of the page, the readers of the Morning Call learned that Allentown “MAY TAKE DRASTIC ACTION TO COMBAT SPANISH INFLUENZA.”

Two days later the “MAY” disappeared, and the story moved to top-left, the most commanding position on the page. Not conditional now. No potentiality now. Drastic action was taken.

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Every place of public amusement and every saloon was ordered closed by the Pennsylvania state Commissioner of Health (churches and schools were left to local discretion), who said, “Bethlehem, a big industrial center . . . is badly infected.”

The above article includes Associated Press news releases from several other locations. Philadelphia, for instance, was being hit bad (the grandfather Gadfly wrote about earlier died there in this early Flu surge).

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We’re familiar now with medical students being pressed into service and medical staff on the front lines falling “victims to the disease,” but strikingly new is the shortage of doctors because of the war. One thing. at least, that we can be thankful for.

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