COVID-19- We’re Not Much Different Now than 100-Years Ago
Just more than 100 years ago, the world suffered a pandemic and you might be surprised that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Between 1918 and 1920, the world suffered from the Spanish Flu, and an estimated 50 million people worldwide, and some 675,000 in the United States died. Today's COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 800,000 worldwide, and more than 180,000 in the U.S..
Despite major advances in medicine, today's pandemic has stumped scientists as they rush to develop a vaccine, although one might be just around the corner. The virus has shut down our economy and forced people to wear masks to prevent the spread. But as a society, how are we dealing with the pandemic, versus the way our great grandparents and their parents dealt with it way back then? Believe it or not, our reaction today is not that much different.
Back then, 43 big-city schools districts were closed around the country and people argued over their opening, much like today. During the Spanish Flu, New York and Philadelphia Schools remained open, and those cities were hit much harder by the virus. Large public gatherings were also shut down around the country, squelching commerce and causing large public debate.
Back then, America was in the midst of World War I and President Woodrow Wilson took a passive approach to combatting the virus, never once publicly referring to it. In the end, the second wave was most deadly and more people would die from the disease than on the battlefield.
Perhaps the most evident parallel between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19 was the public debate over the wearing of surgical masks and face coverings. Just like today, many people wore the masks to prevent the spread, but others stubbornly fought the policy of mask wearing that was widespread around the country. Public Service announcements would attempt to educate people to help save lives by wearing the personal protective gear. But many people in America would resist the masks and saw the recommendation as an infringement on their rights and questioned their effectiveness, just like today.
Dr. Kent Hall, the Chief Surgeon Executive at Mohawk Valley Health Systems told WIBX's Keeler Show that "It is amazing how a hundred years later, human beings haven't changed that much in how they react when they are faced with prolonged restraints on them and there are pockets of people who rebel very dramatically." It happened in 1918 and it's happening again here in 2020. Like back in 1918, "There are pockets of people who believe it's (the virus) not real or it's not as bad as people say," he said.
Hall added that one difference today with our current pandemic is the fact that medicine has advanced throughout the world and because of that, more people are surviving COVID-19 because of the increased quality of care. "If the exact same thing that happened in 1918 happened today...the number of people who died would have been much less."
Dr. Hall also cautioned people that we are still learning about severe complications that people are having after surviving COVID-19 and he also reflected on the fact that even at this point in the pandemic, there are still more than 1000 deaths from the virus daily in the United States.
Listen to the complete interview here.