Spanish Influenza Epidemic: Week 3

Week 3
October 20 – October 26, 1918

Sunday, October 20, 1918

Butte Miner, October 21, 1918

Dr. Matthews reported 363 new cases and 20 deaths from Spanish influenza as of October 20. Secretary Freund noted cooperation from nurses to assist the board was not as it should be during an epidemic because of dissension within the ranks of the nursing profession. Freund asked that the nurses of the City and County be put under the supervision of the Red Cross to keep work moving to stamp out influenza.

The Board discussed that currently, drug stores closed at 10 o’clock p.m. and that the public would be better served if as many stores as possible remained open at all hours during the epidemic. The matter would be brought up with the Druggist Association.

Cases of influenza had been spreading throughout the county jail. To stop the outbreak, all those affected had been transferred to the hospital and no new cases had been reported since.

It was decided at the next meeting the Board would invite representatives from the Butte Businessmen’s Association, medical professions, labor organizations, and all lines of industry to discuss with the board as to what actions they thought would help stop the spread of the flu. Members from the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and Council of Defense would be present at this meeting.

Monday, October 21, 1918

Because doctors were so overworked during this time, the Board was unable to give definite figures as of the increase in flu cases over the past two days.

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Butte Miner, October 22, 1918

Citizens from various branches of industry were present at this meeting to give their thoughts on what actions would help stop the spread of influenza. The board expressed their opinion that the disease was increasing at a rapid rate and although they did not favor closing all lines of business, they felt it would be necessary to prevent congestion in the streets and within businesses unless there was more cooperation of the public. Commissioner Fabian stated it was impossible to get the law enforced and that “it had been tried and failed and thought it time to call on military authorities…to suppress the disease.” It was decided guards would be hired to keep the crowds moving. One board member felt more attention should be given to the streets and that they should be flushed on a daily basis instead of sprinkled.

After discussed that the federal and district courts were still holding session, the board made the following order:

“The Federal, District, and Police judges together with the Justice of the Peace are urgently requested by the County Board of Health to suspend all business with respect to grand and trial juries; to keep spectators from the courtrooms in as far as the same be practicable. And in general to transact as little business as possible during the existence of the Influenza plague.”

Thoughts from the Public

Jack Roche, Judge Dwyer, and County Attorney J.R. Jackson thought all places of business should be closed as they were not essential to the welfare of the citizens. They believed the Board had authority to close all places of business if in their judgment it was necessary.

“The board of health has the power to close the places, and it is necessary that the board act at once. That is your job. If you don’t do it, the community and relatives of the dead will hold you responsible.” – Judge John V. Dwyer

Mr. Bowen of the Red Cross, J.L. Carroll, A.E. Curry, E.A. Brown, J.H. Rowe, and Rev. M.D. Hudloft, addressed the Board and stated as citizens they were willing to cooperate with the Board in their efforts to eliminate influenza.

Manager John Gillie of the Anaconda Company stated that he did not notice any material change in the number of men working at the mines of his company. L.O. Evans stated what was needed was public support and the efforts of the police force should be used to prevent congestion. Mr. Maddock, Superintendent of Schools, expressed the opinion that the Children’s Library should be closed for the present, which the Board would agree to.

However, the majority of the public present at the meeting strongly opposed to closing the business houses and felt the former order should remain in effect at the present time.

Butte Miner, October 22, 1918

The board, after discussion of the public’s input, did not decide to close the business houses, but made the following orders:

“That all Clerks, Waiters, and Waitresses wear masks while at work or on duty for the protection of the public and the proprietors and owners of business houses where business is conducted and to clean their place or places of business every night and to use disinfectant sweeping compound as a preventative in the stores and when sweeping the sidewalks.”

“That the Plunge at Gregson Springs, Silver Bow County, Montana, be closed until further order of Board.”

Tuesday, October 22, 1918

Dr. Matthews reported 236 new cases of influenza and 16 deaths as reported from twelve doctors, but he felt there were several hundred cases not reported. He felt now was the time for the board to take drastic measures to combat the disease.

The board shared their personal knowledge of the health law being violated by several proprietors of saloons and pool halls. The board’s minutes note, “it was not the intent of the board to injure any business, but it would be necessary for the Board to use drastic means to protect the public health.” With this in mind, the Board made the following order:

That no drinks be sold over the Bar. Package goods may be sold and carried away, no liquor consumed on the premises.

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Butte Miner, October 23, 1918

The board ruled pool halls were places of amusement and instructed the Secretary to close all pool halls. Also ruled was police officers must be detailed to all funerals to ensure the obedience to the regulation against public burials. The board emphasized the prohibition against attendance at funerals of any persons not pallbearers or relatives of the deceased.

Wednesday, October 23, 1918 – Thursday, October 24, 1918

The board discussed a large number of flu cases which required special attention and an isolation hospital should be set up for the sick. The committee appointed to select the isolation hospital chose the Washington Junior High School as it was deemed sanitary and the best place available for caring for influenza cases. The board was given a budget of $10,000 to furnish the hospital and L.O. Evans of the Anaconda Company said they would supply the beds and blankets.

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James Finlen offered his entire hotel to be used as an emergency hospital that could care for 200 people. A similar offer was made by Dr. Murray of the Murray Hospital. Butte Miner, October 24, 1918

Friday, October 25, 1918

Butte Miner, October 25, 1918

Dr. Matthews reported 101 new cases on October 24. The total number of deaths since October 1 numbered 147 and the total cases to date were 2,540. The isolation hospital at Washington School had already been opened and numerous patients had already been accepted at the hospital.

The ban against large funerals was being violated on a daily basis according to Chief of Police Jeremiah Murphy. Murphy asked the board to define the number of vehicles that could be allowed at any funeral, and he would see to it that the rules set by the board were followed. The board declared that no church services would be allowed and vehicles at funerals were limited to four, not including the hearse and pallbearers’ car.

Saturday, October 26, 1918

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Butte Miner, October 27, 1918

88 new cases of the flu and 16 deaths were reported. The board agreed the spread of influenza was on the decrease and the rules of the board were generally being adhered to by the public. Fewer cases were being reported and conditions looked more favorable. However, hospital authorities agreed with this opinion due to the number of persons applying for admission to the hospital. The isolation hospital in the Washington School had treated 38 cases in its first two days of operation.



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