“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana
This isn’t the first time leaders have struggled with deciding whether or not to keep schools open in a pandemic. Our ancestors faced the same issues. During the influenza pandemic in 1918, even though the world was a very different place, the discussion was just as heated.
The 1918-1920 Spanish Flu pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans, before it was all over. If you had an ancestor who died in the years 1918 through 1920, there is a very good chance that he or she died of the Spanish Flu.
While the vast majority of cities closed their schools, three opted to keep their schools open — New York, Chicago and New Haven, according to historians.
The results were not good in those school districts.
“For students from the tenement districts, school offered a clean, well-ventilated environment where teachers, nurses, and doctors already practiced — and documented — thorough, routine medical inspections” according to a Public Health Report written in 2020.
New York city was one of the hardest and earliest hit by the flu, said Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian and director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan and also co-author of the 2010 Public Health Reports article mentioned above.
You can read more in a current-day article by Theresa Waldrop and published in the CNN website at: https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/19/us/schools-flu-pandemic-1918-trnd/index.html as well as the article written by the same Dr. Howard Markel at https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/analysis-why-some-schools-stayed-open-during-the-1918-flu-pandemic.