Allentown mayor blames Bethlehem Steel for quarantine over “so-called influenza”

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus/Spanish Flu logo

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).

So we are going almost day-by-day from the arrival of the Spanish Flu in the U.S. on September 13, 1918, marking local awareness of and local events related to the Flu as seen by a reader of the Morning Call.***

On October 5 the Call reported that, pursuant to an order by state health authorities, the Allentown City Council — acting as a Board of Health — voted to close “all public places of amusement and saloons” in tandem with Bethlehem and Easton.

Flu 42

A vote much to the chagrin of the Allentown Mayor, who was “strong in his denunciation of the order, calling it the work of the Bethlehem Steel Company officials” — apparently referring to the Steel’s desire to insure a proper and steady work force for its war effort responsibilities.

In his denunciation of the action, the Mayor stated “that Bethlehem was filthy and dirty, and that a wagon load of refuse could be secured from three blocks of the highways and that the streets were covered with thick layers of dust, the worst breeder of disease.”

One wishes we had access to the Bethlehem papers for rebuttals to that one!

It’s also curious that the A-town mayor focuses on city dirt as the breeder of the disease (and apparently implying that Allentown streets are not in such condition). He is closer here in his denunciation of the quality of public transportation to the common wisdom about conditions favoring the disease:

Flu 45

Basically, however, it appears that the A-town mayor was a kind of pandemic denier, attributing this “so-called influenza” to nothing more than a widespread bout of the common cold caused by people not heating their homes properly.

What!? Just the day before the Call had reported 14,000 new (!) cases in army camps!

Flu 46

The shut-down order, concluded the Mayor in the classic style of exaggerated political oratory, is “Prussianism, and just what we are fighting for ‘over there’ now and was the work of autocrats and not in reason.”

O, my.

But Bethlehem was not without its craziness as the shut-down tightened.

Next.

*** The Call newspaper article indicated that there were five daily newspapers in Allentown at the time. What riches! Who knew?

Late notice: Susan Wild and others Town Hall Monday morning

“Lehigh County plans virtual town hall to address coronavirus questions,” Morning Call, April 2.

Want to ask U.S. Rep. Susan Wild or Pennsylvania state officials a question about the coronavirus? Lehigh County residents will have that opportunity Monday in a virtual town hall meeting.

Residents can raise their concerns or just listen to what speakers have to say by signing up for the conference, which is scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Virtual attendees must register for an invitation to the Zoom video call at lehighcounty.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZQvcO-pqDwsKcF_BO0IzOAOSF83b-xtuw. There are a limited number of spaces.

In an emergency, close all places where people congregate

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus/Spanish Flu logo

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).

October 5, 1918.

Twenty-two days since the Morning Call announced the arrival of the Spanish Flu in America.

Now it starts to get really interesting.

The State Board of Health sent a detailed letter to all of the Boards of Health in the state.

Oct 5 1918 Health Instructions

The opening thrust of the letter was to rehearse all of the commonsense things you could (should) do on your own (such as covering your coughs, getting fresh air, and so forth) to combat the dreaded disease.

But the main operational thrust of the letter was to suggest all of the things that the state could do to you to combat the dreaded disease.

The main operational thrust of the letter was the invocation of the police power of the local government if necessary to control your behavior for the common good.

For instance, a decidedly get-tough policy on spitting through dramatic enforcement of the “anti-spitting act” was explicitly recommended.

Flu 39Flu 40

One is tempted to make a joke out of perp walks by spitters or spitters in stocks at Broad and Main until you remember the bus driver who just died from the coronavirus after making a video complaining of passengers who coughed on him.

Not so funny. And it would serve the knuckleheads right.

But here’s the key nugget in the Board of Health directive:

Flu 41

Who gets to decide when the disease is “unduly prevalent” or, in fact, whether the disease is a “disease” at all?

Sound familiar? Sound like something from the nightly news?

Let’s see the tension between Allentown and Bethlehem and, apparently, within Bethlehem, on these questions.

The hammer drops on a “badly infected” Bethlehem

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

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.

Flu 35

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).

Flu 38

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.

Nooo short-term rentals allowed

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

PRESS RELEASE: April 3, 2020

Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that Short Term Residential Rental facilities should cease operations immediately, in accordance with Governor Wolf’s order to close all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania.

In order to protect and promote the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the City of Bethlehem and the State of Pennsylvania, the City of Bethlehem will be actively enforcing the Governor’s Order against owners and operators of these facilities effective immediately. Owners and operators are subject to immediate closure and/or criminal penalties for operating while the Governor’s ban is in place.

If you are aware of any Short Term Residential Rental facilities operating within the City of Bethlehem, please contact the Housing and Code Enforcement Office at 610-865-7091.

Please monitor the City’s website at http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov and social media for additional information regarding City facilities, public meetings and updates on COVID-19.

There are those among Gadfly followers who will find it ironic that STR is being regulated now!

Gadfly hates to miss a meeting

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

No City Council meeting this Tuesday means no Mayor’s report.

Gadfly was looking forward to that.

The City web site has had various updates on the coronavirus emergency, and Gadfly has been receiving email updates from the City as well.

All good and appreciated.

But there’s nothing like the personal contact with City leaders when times are bad.

Gives assurance that we are in good hands.

Gadfly felt that way hearing the Mayor, Chief DiLuzio, Kristen Wenrich, and Bob Novotnack speak with Council members during that Saturday meeting a week or so ago (when was that? losing my time sense during this crazy period).

Gadfly felt that we are in good hands.

Perhaps there’s a way to do that again somehow? The April 21 meeting is a long way off.

Are police and fire having any staffing problems? We hear bad things about how the virus is affecting New York public services, for instance.

City staff? I think there was an article in the paper this morning about layoffs in a nearby city.

What’s been the effect on local hospitals?

How do we compare with other municipalities?

Well, and so forth.

Passing information, for sure, but mainly Gadfly is just thinking about the kind of confidence and reassurance that comes from hearing/seeing the people in charge.

Satisfies a need different than the emails and posts.

A kind of hand-holding.

How about that small group mentioned above doing a videocast at the regular meeting time Tuesday night, with people able to ask questions via Facebook or something? (Didn’t Councilman Reynolds do something like that in the past, answering questions in real time?)

If we want to get more adventuresome and enhance rapport between elected officials and residents in this time of crisis, we could invite some Council members to share how the emergency has affected their work lives — how is JWR teaching these days? MGC and PVW sharing turmoil in healthcare? ARW and BGC coping as small business owners?  Etc.

This could be an opportunity to make the point that we are all in this together.

City Council meeting April 7 canceled, April 21 moved online

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Bethlehem residents:

The April 7, 2020 Bethlehem City Council meeting will be canceled due to the developing COVID-19 public health emergency. The City is currently working to develop a remote Council meeting system that will allow for public comment.

The next Bethlehem City Council meeting will be April 21, 2020, at 7:00 PM, and hosted through remote meeting software. The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube and the public will be able to participate in the public comment sessions through a call-in phone number. The standard five minute time limit will apply to public comment sessions.

The City is currently developing procedures for remote public comment and will distribute instructions to the public as soon as possible. When ready, call-in instructions will be posted on the City website, distributed to local media, and distributed through select City social media channels.

Thank you for your understanding.

Regards,

Robert G. Vidoni, Esq.

City Clerk
Offices of City Council
City of Bethlehem

Tip o’ the hat!