Americans Refused to Wear Safety Masks During the Spanish Flu, 700K Died

As COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S., many Americans still refuse to wear a simple safety mask to help slow the contagious and deadly virus, which has already claimed over 141,000 lives (VIDEO BELOW).

J. Alexander Navarro — Assistant Director, Center for the History of Medicine, University of Michigan — noted in The Conversation that many Americans also refused to wear safety masks during the Spanish Flu, which ended up killing about 700,000 in the U.S.:

Health officials understood that radically changing public behavior was a difficult undertaking, especially since many found masks uncomfortable to wear. Appeals to patriotism could go only so far. As one Sacramento official noted, people “must be forced to do the things that are for their best interests.”

The Red Cross bluntly stated that “the man or woman or child who will not wear a mask now is a dangerous slacker.” Numerous communities, particularly across the West, imposed mandatory ordinances. Some sentenced scofflaws to short jail terms, and fines ranged from US$5 to $200…

In places where mask orders were successfully implemented, noncompliance and outright defiance quickly became a problem. Many businesses, unwilling to turn away shoppers, wouldn’t bar unmasked customers from their stores.

Workers complained that masks were too uncomfortable to wear all day. One Denver salesperson refused because she said her “nose went to sleep” every time she put one on.

Another said she believed that “an authority higher than the Denver Department of Health was looking after her well-being.” As one local newspaper put it, the order to wear masks “was almost totally ignored by the people; in fact, the order was cause of mirth.”

The Los Angeles Times noted in May how similar COVID-19 is to the Spanish Flu.

(Source: The Conversation, Los Angeles Times/YouTube, Photo Credit: The National Library of Medicine/NIH)

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