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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

100 years ago in Spokane: Schools closed as flu spreads to the young

Schools were closing for the second time in as many months, by order of the city health officer. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Schools were closing for the second time in as many months, by order of the city health officer. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane schools were shut down indefinitely at noon, by order of the city board of health.

This was the second closure in as many months because of the Spanish flu epidemic. Earlier, the schools had been closed for seven weeks. They reopened for only a few days when the epidemic worsened again.

City health officer Dr. J.B. Anderson admitted that he had never been in favor of reopening the schools that early, but had reluctantly agreed to a compromise. At the time, it did not appear that children were particularly vulnerable – most of the deaths were among adults in the prime of life – but recently it seemed that children were increasingly afflicted.

Because of that, the board also barred children 12 and under from attending movies, Sunday Schools and other places of public assembly.

The board stopped short of reinstating a blanket ban on all public gatherings, but the board warned of a strong likelihood of another ban if the flu situation didn’t improve in the next 24 hours.

From the club beat: The head of the City Federation of Women’s Organizations said all club meetings in town should be canceled so that women could devote their time to flu work.

“The club women need to devote their energies to the sick in our midst and to such Red Cross work only as is urgently needed,” said Mrs. J.M Simpson. “The women are not awake to the situation and I know the men are not, or they never would have staged the ‘jubilee.’ ”

She was referring to a giant street fair and dance the weekend before in which thousands gathered downtown to celebrate the war victory. The city health officer had repeatedly warned people against gathering in crowds for any reason.

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