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Reopening Our Cities, Then and Now

As the Chicago area joins the rest of Illinois and moves into a new phase of reopening, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant and keep health and safety at top of mind. The not-so-distant history offers concrete clues as to how to open our cities while keeping people healthy—in fact, we can draw a striking parallel to the influenza epidemic of 1918 response. 

A compilation of newspaper headlines related to the Chicago influenza epidemic in a report about the event written by John Dill Robertson, Commissioner of Health, published by the Department of Health in Chicago, 1918. CHM, ICHi-176188

While major cities worked tirelessly to open up quickly and stimulate the economy, these efforts backfired. States and cities that opted for that plan showed a positive correlation in mortality rates and a decrease in economic stability. For example, when Philadelphia opened its economy following a positive trend in influenza recovery, state leaders encouraged their population to celebrate and attend a parade, causing a rapid resurgence in influenza cases. Learn more as our own Brittany Hutchinson, assistant curator at the Chicago History Museum, delved into some of the most important comparisons to the 1918 influenza epidemic with ABC 7 reporter Sarah Schulte. Watch the interview.

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