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Tuesday, March 26, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago today in Spokane: City shuts down as Spanish flu hits Spokane

All of Spokane was virtually shut down after the Spanish influenza arrived with a vengeance, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Oct. 9, 1918. All schools, theaters, churches, and social clubs were closed. The mining stock exchange was shut down. The YMCA was shuttered. (Spokesman-Review archives)
All of Spokane was virtually shut down after the Spanish influenza arrived with a vengeance, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Oct. 9, 1918. All schools, theaters, churches, and social clubs were closed. The mining stock exchange was shut down. The YMCA was shuttered. (Spokesman-Review archives)

All of Spokane was virtually shut down after the Spanish influenza arrived with a vengeance.

All schools, theaters, churches and social clubs were closed. The mining stock exchange was shut down. The YMCA was shuttered.

Even public funerals were banned.

These desperate measures came after more than 100 cases of the Spanish flu were reported, scattered throughout Spokane. City health department authorities believed that most of the cases were “mild,” but that the city could not afford to take any chances. The Spanish flu had already caused many deaths in the East.

“So far there has been no case of the virulent type of the disease, and we hope there will be none,” said the city health officer, too optimistically. “However, the number of cases is abnormal and for the protection of the public the closing order was inevitable.”

Ominously, one of the flu-sufferers was a soldier at Fort Wright. This would later prove significant.

The only gatherings that were still allowed were military training drills and some open-air athletics. Nearly 50 touring actors at vaudeville theaters were out of work, and “will be guests of Spokane” until the order was rescinded. Theaters in Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria also were closed.

There were indications that the closure would soon be extended to the entire state. Outbreaks of flu were reported in a number of Washington cities.

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