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.

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 Covid-19 update

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

Covid-19 Update April 3, 2020

As of noon on April 3, 2020, Bethlehem had a total of 108 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths.  The Bethlehem Health Department continues to investigate all reported cases and quarantine close contacts.
For questions about COVID-19, please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or the Bethlehem Health Department at 610-865-7083.

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.

Dreadful disease, dreadful dilemma: quarantine the city or risk losing Bethlehem Steel to the war effort

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).

Our president has called himself, metaphorically, a war-president in the fight against the coronavirus.

In 1918, there was a real war going on when the Spanish Flu arrived.

A war in which Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel workers, and Bethlehem in general played an essential role.

Gadfly bets you hadn’t considered how fighting a foe in Europe complicates fighting a flu in the ether.

But doesn’t the following situation sound familiar?

Recognition that “social distancing” combats the disease (plus recognition that we’re a crucial link in the military supply chain) but reluctance to “go the distance” because of entertainment and business interests.

Another disease sometimes seems to come in tandem with the pandemics: political paralysis.

The government official recommends the Lehigh Valley tri-cities enter in to an “absolute quarantine . . . in order to guard against the danger of a Spanish influenza epidemic which the government fears would cripple the industrial centres hereabouts that are turning out war products.”

The government official recommends “the prohibition of all public gatherings in the city, the closing of all schools, theatres, saloons, pool rooms, soda fountains and churches for an indefinite period.”

Shut-down. Shelter-in-place.

The Allentown mayor drags feet. Such “drastic and radical” action will interfere with fund raising for the war (red herring), there’s already the constructive effort of an anti-flu placard, sign, and card campaign (we’re doing enough to fight the disease now), and he opts to wait to see what others will do (punts).

The government official sees the real reason: “When General Pershing cables for guns and ammunition we cannot tell him that we cannot send the supplies because we didn’t quarantine a city for fear it would be an inconvenience to the merchants and saloonmen.”

The government official turns the screws, or tries to: “If production at the Bethlehem Steel plant is impeded because of the epidemic, we will be culpable. . . . This is a radical act but these are radical times.”

Decision, decisions — that’s why our local officials make the big money! (Just kidding, of course.)

God grant our elected officials the courage to act with wisdom and speed in radical times.

(Wouldn’t you love to see “man-in-the-street” interviews?)

Flu 23

Flu 32
Flu 33
Flu 34

Morning Call, October 2, 1918

You can still First Friday!

Online Today!

4pm: info from Missy Hartney
7pm: concert begins

Southside Arts District
Happening on First Fridays
 
Each First Friday Bethlehem’s SouthSide Arts District comes to life, celebrating art, music, their unique shops and delicious restaurants. And this Friday is no different. The Arts District invites you to join them on Facebook at 4pm with the SouthSide’s Downtown Manager, Missy Hartney to learn which restaurants and bars are offering curbside pickup and how to shop local during this time. “We want to give people a sense of normalcy, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do that, than by celebrating on a Friday night. Get take out, go home safely and enjoy live local music on Facebook,” said Hartney. “Supporting local businesses is crucial right now. When the dust settles and we are all back to work and school, we want these businesses to still be here. These are our neighbors that run these shops and restaurants. If we don’t support them now, we won’t have them when we make it to the other side, so if you have plans to treat yourself with takeout please support local!”
In addition to local restaurant specials, at 7PM local musicians will take over the SouthSide’s Facebook Page offering viewers live entertainment for their Friday night. Kendal Conrad, local American Country singer-songwriter, kicks off the evening at 7pm, followed by Carlos Barata, Soulful Alternative singer-songwriter, and at 8pm Classic Rock singer-songwriter Ralph Pagano. Viewers who like and share each performance with the hashtag #facebookfirstfriday will get the chance to win a $100 gift card to the SouthSide retailer or restaurant of their choice. The more performances they share, the more chances to win! The winner will be announced Friday evening on the SouthSide’s Facebook page!
 
For more information on all the local shops and restaurants still in operation in the SouthSide please visit: https://southsideartsdistrict.com/support-local-merchants/
Special thank you to our First Friday Sponsors – ArtsQuest, The Bethlehem Parking Authority and Lehigh University for making First Friday possible!

The Spanish Flu comes to Bethlehem

logo Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus logo

For perspective on our current coroniavirus 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).

In the period a few days before and after October 1, 1918, Bethlehem readers of the Morning Call could see the disease coming closer and closer to their homes.

On September 27 Allentonian James Kingston returned from Tennessee and the funeral of his nephew, “a specimen of good health, 27 years of age,” whose “sudden and unexpected death” while serving in the army at Camp Devens was a “severe shock” to the family.

But that was nobody’s immediate family and Camp Devens and Tennessee were far away.

On October 1 in Easton, “suspicion was aroused” that two people with no connection with the military died of the “dreaded Spanish Influenza,” 20-year-old Ulmont White and 55-year-old Seth Johnson.

But that was Easton and the cause of death unsure.

October 2 was the day uncertainty itself died in Allentown. On October 2 the Spanish Flu claimed John Levi Keiser, age 68, 118 Walnut St.; Harvey Diehl, age 29, 19 S. 12th St.; and Lewis Uhl, 320 N. 6th.

On September 13, the Spanish Flu arrived in the U.S.; on October 2 it arrived in Allentown.

The Flu was no longer a number; it had a name, an address, and a story.

It was real.

Keiser was the Lehigh Valley Railroad gatetender at the 3rd St. crossing, someone many people might have passed over the years. Diehl had the hard luck of catching the Flu literally waiting in line for his discharge from the very army on which the Flu was feasting like a bear at a honey pot.

Flu 28

By October 4 the disease was certainly in Bethlehem, killing “a popular young resident,” 32-year-old Frank Lowery of 620 W. Broad St. (the address of the hairdresser next to the former Mayflower lunch across from Sim’s Market), a husband leaving a wife and two sons, a son himself tragically dying before his parents — perhaps the first Bethlehem resident known to succumb to the Flu.

Flu 29

The Spanish Flu had come to Bethlehem.