Written by Lucero Benitez, COSS Communications Specialist
Ethan Kytle’s weekly writings show parallels between current and past pandemics
Millions of Americans scrambled to adjust to the extraordinary changes to society spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. Schools and colleges suspended classes. Restaurants, bars and theaters closed. Major public events were canceled and people began to work and “attend” school from home, with the use of technology.
While this situation is unlike any other experience for most Americans, history will tell us it’s not completely unprecedented.
A little over a century ago, in 1918-19, a deadlier respiratory virus killed 50 to 100 million people worldwide. That influenza pandemic sparked similar responses that began in the U.S. a few weeks ago — schools and saloons were shut and public performances outlawed.
To provide some historical context for the current state of affairs, Dr. Ethan Kytle, professor and chair for the Fresno State History Department, is cataloging how Fresno responded to the 1918-19 “Spanish” flu pandemic.
“As a historian I tend to process contemporary events — especially extraordinary developments like the coronavirus pandemic — through the past,” Kytle said. “When Fresno State first announced that it was moving to remote instruction several weeks ago, I decided to look into what had happened here in Fresno during the last health crisis of this magnitude: the 1918-19 influenza pandemic.”
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