by Brendan Battle, BGSU History major. This is one in a series of posts written by students in HIST 4800 in Spring, 2020, putting our world into historical context for the public.
American Response to Epidemics: Compare and Contrast
United States and the world are in the midst of the worst international
pandemic in generations, the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. The virus has claimed tens
of thousands of lives and transformed everyday life as people, governments, and
businesses struggle to respond to the highly virulent and deadly disease.
However, this is not the first time the nation has been locked down by disease,
with similar events occurring due to the 1918 influenza pandemic, popularly
known as the “Spanish Flu.” The virus is estimated to have infected roughly
five hundred million people, nearly a third of the world’s population at the
time and claimed the lives of more than fifty million people, with over 500,000
of those deaths occurring in the United States. Responses to both pandemics
show weaknesses in our social systems and a conflict between interests of
public safety and economic and political goals. The measures taken by our
national, state, and city governments in response to our current pandemic show
close similarities in both the successes and failures over one hundred years