Photos from the 1918 pandemic show what has changed in a century and what hasn’t

We all know that history has a habit of repeating itself, but the fact that we find ourselves in a global pandemic almost exactly 100 years after the last great sensation is almost felt in the nose.

While the coronavirus outbreak differs from the Spanish flu pandemic in some important ways, there are also some striking similarities. The same uncertainty about how to handle it. The same differences of opinion about how bad it could get. The difference now is that we have a lot more science to help us solve everything, but also a massive information machine that feeds on people’s misunderstandings about how science works and makes it easier for misinformation to spread like a wildfire.

Good times.

But it can be revealing to look at the historical documentation of a similar event, especially through photographs that depict the details of everyday life. As we are all in various stages of closing or reopening, wearing masks and physical distancing, it is fascinating to see people a century ago dealing with the same things.

CBS Sunday Morning did a segment on the 1918 pandemic in early March, just before states in the United States began coronavirus closings. From some doctors who downplay the Spanish flu as “old-fashioned flu, nothing more” for people who wear masks in public, or refuse to do so, there are so many parallels to what we are experiencing now.

The History of the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Watching this segment now, several months after the pandemic, is really something, isn’t it? One thing we should be thankful for is that we are not in the midst of a world war and at the same time we are dealing with an outbreak of coronavirus, although we have the social and political turmoil of our era at the same time. Let’s sign a pact not to add total war to everything else we’re going through. 2020 has been quite hectic.

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