Taking a Look Back: Covid-19 compared to the Spanish Flu at US

Jake Pease

Due to Covid-19’s presence in daily life over the past 10 months, it is fitting that a comparison is made to the 1918-1920 Spanish Flu. Although the Spanish Flu was relevant, there is a lack of information on the disease; most boys were interested in the end of World War I. However, a US News article about the Spanish Flu has surfaced. The article reviews daily life at the time as well as the concluding sports seasons, most notably football. Obviously, there was no “Zoom”, so it’ll be intriguing to see if the school guidelines are strict or lenient.

The most striking aspect of this article was its attitude towards the Flu. The article first notes that there is a comparison of fear in sports to health, mainly, how an athlete becomes “yellow and useless” when scared. The author explains, “Fear of disease makes one liable to it”. This mentality of being fearless to the Flu is intriguing considering how many people the Flu eventually infected and killed. The article advises against dreading the Flu when experiencing symptoms. Fear, the author argues, makes one more perceptible to the Flu, because “you are putting yourself in a receptive condition. You are disabling yourself”. The article cites a Cleveland newspaper as “proof” that the weak and fearful succumbed during past epidemics. In the last paragraph from the first section, the article states someone is more likely to get ill from a movie theater or “unhealthy shops” than from school contact. The first segment ends with “The first cold wet weather has brought its usual crop of ‘snuffles.’ Don’t let Fear, the arch-ally of Flu, get you!”

The links the article makes between fear and Flu is intriguing, but verifiably false. While it is true some are more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus than others, fear is not a preexisting condition, and likely wasn’t during the Spanish Flu either. There also seems to be less precautions being taken. There is not as many provisions or securities, which brings a mindset of: if you get it, you get it and hope.

In the second half of the article, the main focus shifts to sports and upcoming activities. The writer mentions a five week break in the fall season which cancelled most of the fall tennis and football seasons. Despite these short seasons and the lingering Flu, the teams fought hard and played well. According to the article, due to the “influenza ban”, the football team did play, but only a 3 total games, where they had a “fine showing.” From what can be observed, the fall sports were the real losers of all the sports teams.

The focus then shifts to the upcoming winter sports, many of which were a product of their time. Those mentioned were: “basketball, drills with wands, Indian clubs and dumbbells, pyramid building, apparatus work, wrestling, boxing, fencing, tumbling”, and more! This combination of winter sports is extremely fascinating, but most intriguing is the rifle practice. According to the article, once every week after school rifle practice was held in the gymnasium. These activities seem to be scheduled and occurring on time without any setbacks due to the Flu. The Flu seems to have none or little effect or presence on sports and the school schedule.

The difference between the past and today is stark. According to the article, a 5 week break from school was the only safety protocol. The general school body did not fear for the Flu. Fall sports were cut off, but winter sports were ready to proceed as scheduled with no influence from the Flu. Fortunately, in 2021, there are more technology and safety protocols that allow us to be back at school without spreading the virus. There are noticeable similarities and dissimilarities such as fear of the coronavirus; not for oneself but for the health and well-being of others. When sports are allowed, they are limited by outbreaks among opponents or teammates. Many more protocols have been set up against the coronavirus compared to the Spanish Flu, progress that we can be thankful for.