Spanish Flu Redo

This “re-opening” shit is giving me Deja-Vu.

It’s either a glitch in the Matrix, or I’ve been watching too many fucking documentaries, and I spent too much time with my grandfather.

We did this same shit 101 years ago when millions died from the Spanish Flu. More people died in 1919 than 1918 — because we “re-opened”.  Like surfing, the second wave is often bigger, and in 1919 it was.

My maternal grandfather was a Spanish Flu survivor.  When I was in my 20’s, John T. opened up “a little” about it.

He was the son of Irish immigrants: an alcoholic father and a factory working mother in Beacon, New York.  He wheedled his way to Notre Dame in Indiana. Sometimes he said it was because he played baseball, sometimes because he was a good student. (I don’t know the real story; bullshit runs in that side of the family).

He was the first in his family to go to college.  He waited tables to pay the tuition. It took him an extra year, but it wasn’t about the money.  He missed a semester when he had to accompany his roommate’s body on the train home. They didn’t let him come back until the next year.

Like millions of young healthy people, in 1918, his roommate died of the Spanish Flu.  I assume John T. had it too.

I’ve heard my shithead friends talk about how people back then didn’t know what they were doing.  “They had no idea what to do.”

Bullshit.  They didn’t know it was a virus. But the small pox vaccine was already more than 100 years old (created in 1796).  Public Health measures had already been put in place in Panama to beat malaria and dig a canal in a mosquito-filled rain forest.

They had already re-learned the lessons that the Romans knew.  They knew microscopic shit in the air or in blood could kill you.  They were already building sewers, killing rats and eradicating mosquitoes.  They wore masks. They social distanced. They closed businesses and schools.  In places with power and money, they traced the sick and quarantined people who came in contact with them.

They knew that shit worked.

They didn’t have DNA/RNA tests or sequencing. They didn’t have widespread refrigeration or air conditioning.  But they knew flu victims did better in outdoor hospitals and that indoor air can be contaminated.


Stole the image from the Economist.

They knew some people died and some didn’t even get sick.  They knew that good nursing and bedside care made a huge difference.  They knew crowds were bad.

But they didn’t have an organized national response.  They pointed fingers at the “Spanish” even though the first cases were found in Kansas.  Yes, they knew about racism too.

Different towns, cities and states made their own experiments.  Those that closed, had few deaths and their economies recovered early.

Those that ignored the pandemic, and had conferences, festivals and large gatherings had huge death rates and paid heavy economic prices for years to come.

They survived 1918 and thought it was over.  They didn’t prepare for 1919.  The second wave hit harder in many places.  The pandemic spread to every corner of the globe.

It killed the poor, minorities and the people without safe, clean housing or hospitals in bigger numbers.


We know all of this.  We know a second wave is probably building on the horizon.  We know if we get a vaccine or a treatment it will take time before we know which one(s) will work.

But fuck it, we are opening anyway — sort of.

Maybe in the 21st Century we will know enough to go slow.  It’s dangerous for any individual to do anything.  But in the aggregate, we know the odds. Keep crowds at bay.  Focus on what really gets you (94 percent of people get infected by someone coughing, sneezing or breathing “on” them or near them or from the air conditioner blowing that shit in your face).

Trace the contacts and hide them away.

Surfaces are not that dangerous. Wash your hands, works about 100 percent of the time you do it. Take out is pretty safe — eating in a restaurant is not.

Gotta to be an Evolution

Good news?  Viruses weaken over time.  We never had a treatment for Spanish Flu. Never developed a vaccine.  We quarantined and waited. Every set of waves comes to an end.

Deadly viruses have to “work on themselves” or they die. They kill their hosts, or the hosts distance so the virus can’t spread. Can’t replicate itself.  Extinction looms.

Better to become less annoying — a mild cold that no one cares to avoid, than be a deadly asshole that no one wants to take home. Good advice for dating too.

Can you spell evolution?  Viruses can.  That’s what they do.  The more we distance and the more we starve this little coronavirus, the quicker it will evolve to be a good little virus that we can take home to meet mama. (If you don’t believe in evolution, then you must believe that God created the virus to kill people on purpose — good luck worshipping that asshole).

How long does evolution of a virus take?  No one fucking knows, but it’s years, not weeks.

All that said, I’m all for a little opening.  It’s good to go back to play tennis. Running outside, or walking in the park is not likely to spread it. But let’s hold off on stuffing people in schools or offices unless they “have to” be there.

Haircuts can wait.

Maybe we should just read what they did in 1919 to finally end this shit.

Most of the time, when things are tough, humans have been this way before.  We “know” the way out.  We just don’t want to do it, because it sucks.

Now that shit is some serious Deja-Vu.

Categories: Covid-19

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9 replies »

  1. One of my former coworkers is adamant against contact tracing. I told him unless he’s moving large quantities of cocaine or hiding bodies, the government doesn’t give a shit what he’s doing, but he’s still a “Freedom!!” guy. March 20, we had about the same death toll as South Korea, who does contact tracing and quarantining — my buddy Frank works there he gets updates on his phone about new cases and where they’re at.. In the following month, S. Korea had 85 deaths and the U.S. had 62,000.

    1918, Philidelphia went ahead with a huge veterans parade. St. Louis locked down. A week later, Philidelphia had 2,600 dead.

    Luckily for us, Spanish flu was really aggressive against young people and highly fatal, and COVID-19 isn’t, though it’s a weird disease that is affecting people some people differently. We’re going to see a lot more deaths over the next few months and then Round 2 will start in the Fall. Fun times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Contact tracing seems the most libertarian solution. People make their choices and live with the consequences… Go out — contact an infected person — 14-day quarantine…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If everyone would wear a mask transmission would be down dramatically. The same idiots who like to cosplay Power Rangers or Osama Bin Laden’s seal team six assassins get all snowflakey when they are asked to wear a stupid face covering. Here in New York — outside of the hormone driven enclaves housing twenty somethings in Brooklyn– everyone wears a mask. It enables us to at least leave the confines of our homes. I’m guessing Round Two is coming in July for a lot of places; I think fall is optimistic based on the assholery I see in places like that Georgia suburb in the Washington Post yesterday or that restaurant outside of Denver a week or so ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Crikey! Why can’t humanity learn from past mistakes? Two more weeks or so (however long it takes to get consistent down numbers) of quarantine, masks and physical distancing and we could maybe prevent the 2nd wave from being tragic. Learn from 1919… Lockdown is a small price to pay… suffer a bit now for a better tomorrow people! That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s interesting to circle back and re-read this now, in early 2021, with summer/fall data charts to reflect upon! It’s been a LONG, LONG year for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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