Influenza was declared a reportable disease by the Erie Board of Health on October 9, 1918. All persons ill with the flu were ordered to stay home. Visiting sick people was forbidden, and funerals were "absolutely private, no gathering in churches being allowed."
Why the extreme measures? Because 500 people died from influenza during the last three months of 1918 in the City of Erie, PA.
On September 30, every county in the State of Pennsylvania received a telegraph from the commonwealth, "closing every unnecessary place of gathering such as schools, churches, saloons, theaters, and places of amusement of all kinds, also forbidding every sort of public meeting. Street cars and other public vehicles were ordered to avoid overcrowding and everyone was advised to stay at home." Residents of Erie were not happy with these orders.
Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed. "On October 25th, two hospital wards were opened in the Elk's Club. These wards when filled to capacity accommodated 85 patients. A nursing force was hurriedly assembled, consisting of state and school nurses, those from one of the industrial plants, private nurses, so called domestic and practical nurses and volunteers. Many of these women left homes and families to lend a helping hand."
The federal government lent beds, bedding, linen and dishes. The Red Cross loaned nightshirts for the patients and masks and aprons for the nurses. City Council raised $10,000. The Directors of the Poor gave money for those who were too ill at home to be able to obtain food.
On October 28, 1918, 378 new cases of the flu were reported to the Board of Health in a single day. Two hundred and seventy-two new cases were reported on December 9th. Sixteen people died on November 6th; 28 people died on November 21. The flu was relentless.
The numbers of those who were ill with the flu in the City of Erie were staggering; 9,512 cases of influenza were reported during October, November and December of 1918. Five hundred people died as a result of contracting the flu, decimating young and old alike.
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