Echoes of 1918 flu pandemic resonate today — 3/25/21

Credit: Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

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Today we highlight a story written for The Conversation by University of Michigan professor J. Alexander Navarro, who studied the flu pandemic from a century ago. Navarro, who runs the Center for the History of Medicine, found that as the pandemic stretched past two years, residents grew tired of wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and staying away from movie theaters and restaurants. The public also was anxious to celebrate the end of World War I. These pressures prompted political leaders to loosen restrictions, sparking the worst spike in cases of the pandemic, which killed 675,000 across the United States, including 8,459 people in Wisconsin. “If we have anything to learn from the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic, as well as our experience thus far with COVID-19,” Navarro wrote, “it is that a premature return to pre-pandemic life risks more cases and more deaths.” See how Wisconsin handled the flu pandemic in this April story by Wisconsin Watch’s Jim Malewitz

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“It’s hard to make much out of one day. Nonetheless there are other signs more generally that an increase in cases may be coming.” 

Ben Weston, director of medical services at the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management, commenting on the recent uptick in cases in Wisconsin and 29 other states.

Data to note

Click on the image above to see Wisconsin DHS COVID-19 vaccine data, which is updated daily.

Here’s a look at the Department of Health Services’ vaccine dashboard, which showed Wednesday that 73.7% of Wisconsinites ages 65 and older have gotten at least one dose — as have 27.3% of the state’s overall population. Racial disparities persist in distributing vaccines. The shares of Black, Hispanic and Native American residents to receive a dose remain below that of white residents.   

Public health officials continue to urge Wisconsinites to wear masks and practice physical distancing until vaccinations are more widely distributed. On Thursday, the state DHS reported 537 new cases and two new deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 6,599.

WisContext offers this visualization. 

Find a vaccine site near you

DHS has this interactive map of vaccine providers across Wisconsin. Vaccinations are generally by appointment only and it may take time to schedule appointments with providers due to limited supplies of vaccines. 

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Curd immunity: How Wisconsin cheesemakers and dairy farmers are getting vaccines for workers and others in the community Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

About 230 service industry workers get vaccine on-site at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies Wisconsin State Journal

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Echoes of 1918 flu pandemic resonate today — 3/25/21 is a post from, a non-profit investigative news site covering Wisconsin since 2009. Please consider making a contribution to support our journalism.

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