Chicago Prepares for an Influenza Outbreak

 It became evident that the Influenza would soon spread to Chicago after an attack of Influenza occurred at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station only 32 miles north of the city.  On September 16,1918, John Dill Robertson, the Health Commissioner, warned the public of the disease that would soon plague the city.  Signs were placed in streetcars and elevated trains to warn against the danger of spitting, coughing, and sneezing.  It was thought that by taking these precautions, the dangers of contracting and conveying the disease might lessen.  Robertson also declared influenza to be a contagious or epidemic disease and ordered all cases to be reported to the Department of Health.  It was decided that all nonessential places of amusement such as: theaters, dance halls, athletic meets, and cabarets should be closed. These establishments were not re-opened until they passed an inspection by the health department.  Billiard and bowling matches were forbidden.  Hotels were ordered to keep their lobbies clear of loiterers.  Bars were raided for disobeying the crowd-size violations set by the city.  Businesses were asked to stagger working hours in an attempt to minimize crowds on public transportation.  Robertson asked that church services be as brief as possible and limited wake attendance to 10 people at a time.  Children playing in neighborhood parks were ordered to go home by the police department.  Chicagoans were ordered to wear face masks while in public to avoid any further spreading of the disease.  The masks were considered to be a simple and cheap antidote against the epidemic.  While at the time this precaution seemed effective, it did not prevent the spread of the microscopic virus.  Wearing face masks can be compared to blocking a sand storm with chicken wire.  Despite all of these measures taken to prevent the spread of the influenza, it was decided that all places of business, churches, and schools should remain open due to World War I and the fact that the community had to stay positive.  Robertson conducted an intense publicity campaign both preceding and during Chicago's influenza outbreak.

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