NYC Through the 1918 Flu and 2020 COVID Pandemics (Half 2)




Final week, we started our comparability of how New York Metropolis responded to a worldwide pandemic a century aside. This week, we proceed the comparability, this time how faculties, households, and Broadway balanced financial and well being pressures, two important concert events that have been typically at odds.


1918 |  Colleges have been saved open at some point of the Epidemic, as Well being Commissioner Copeland thought of faculties a safer atmosphere for the town’s kids than their respective properties. In doing so, academics started a presumptive roll as well being monitor and phone tracer, with Copeland claiming that “In faculties the kids are beneath the fixed guardianship of the medical inspectors. This work is a part of our system of illness management. If the faculties have been closed not less than 1,000,000 can be despatched to their properties and change into 1,000,000 potentialities for the illness. Moreover, there can be no one to take particular discover of their situation.”

Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library. “Tenement house” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1908 – 1921.

This idea of colleges being safer than the coed’s respective properties derives from the town’s infamous tenement buildings, which supplied as much as three quarters of the town’s a million kids with housing. These tenements tended to have a better inhabitants density than anyplace else within the nation, with tenements within the Decrease East Facet ranging anyplace from 665 to 1,000 individuals per acre, in comparison with solely 136 per acre in the identical area as of 2010. 

This density, when mixed with a scarcity of fresh consuming water and bathrooms, makes Copeland’s resolution to not shut the complete faculty system down extra comprehensible, particularly contemplating New York’s public faculties have been typically thought of a number of the nation’s greatest on the time.

Commissioner Copeland additionally focused faculties for the dissemination of training the general public within the type of pamphlets and leaflets explaining how the illness spreads, and methods by which to include it. By handing the flyers to the town’s college students, the hope was they’d make their means dwelling, and subsequently unfold continued consciousness and information concerning the illness to the general public extra effectively.

2020 | This Fall, New York has opted for a mixture of in-person studying and distant instruction because of the uncertainty of the trajectory of the virus, although this has introduced its personal logistical challenges relative to making sure the town’s complete inhabitants of scholars has each a pc and steady web entry. Up to now, the Division of Training has disseminated over 320,000 iPads full with web entry, although some public faculties nonetheless lack the required units wanted to attach all their college students. 

The lack of conventional in-person instruction has additionally compromised the meals safety of many households who depend on faculty lunches to feed their kids. An estimated 1.5 million New York Metropolis residents face some kind of meals insecurity yearly, together with 1 / 4 of all the town’s kids. The town has responded by offering a $420 meals profit card to every household related to a New York Public faculty scholar, although many households are nonetheless more likely to wrestle contemplating the continuing unemployment disaster within the metropolis, the place over a million are out of labor, with the town’s unemployment charge remaining over twice the nationwide common. 

1918 |  Broadway, very similar to the town’s public faculties, remained open not solely in an try to additional unfold influenza associated information to the general public, however, from Commissioner Copeland’s perspective, to retain a way of order and normality among the many populace. The theaters, like most companies within the metropolis, have been subjected to new necessities in an try to restrict the unfold of the influenza, from banning kids beneath 12 from attending to protecting the doorways and home windows to the theatre open throughout down time between reveals. Much like the faculties which have been seen as safer than the house, the town’s theaters have been thought of important to be able to stop mass hysteria and panic ensuing from the opposite lockdown procedures already making themselves felt all through the town.

2020 |  It has been practically Eight months for the reason that final Broadway efficiency, with the reopening timeline itemizing June of 2021 because the earliest date for widespread reopening. A lot of the town’s actors and artists face historic unemployment, as many misplaced their jobs not solely within the performing arts, however within the restaurant and repair industries that always present them with extra monetary safety. Whereas some theaters have switched to on-line programming, it stays to be seen how a lot of the venues in New York will survive the approaching months. 


New York, particularly in comparison with America’s different massive cities of the time, weathered the epidemic comparatively effectively, with a a lot decrease fatality charge regardless of its distinctive inhabitants density. Nonetheless, by the top of the epidemic round 20,000 New Yorkers had misplaced their lives, out of a inhabitants of roughly 5.6 million. Examine that to in the present day, the place the town at present lists round 24,000 deaths out of 8.four million. New York’s first dying to COVID-19 occurred on March 14th of 2020, that means the town is at present in its seventh month combating a pandemic. However with instances ticking upwards as soon as once more, the masks now ubiquitous on each the sidewalks and subways of New York present no signal of being taken off anytime quickly. 

Henry Trinder is a author and musician residing in Greenpoint, New York. 



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