Leavitt: We're overdue for a pandemic
The mayor and this Dr. MacFarlane issued a proclamation, doing what turns out happened in virtually every community in America during that period they banned public gatherings. The schools were closed. The college was closed. The only building turned into what was a makeshift hospital. Everyone was required to wear a gauze mask 24 hours a day when they were out of their if they were out of their home. Dr. MacFarlane noted about the gauze masks, he said the masks were annoying to everyone, but particularly galling to members of the community who were addicted to chewing tobacco. [Laughter.] One elderly member of this fraternity is recalled whose mask was tied on sure enough, but it just hung around his neck, leaving his nose and his mouth well uncovered and served only to rescue whatever tobacco juice failed to clear his chin.
But despite those efforts in my hometown, the influenza changed everything. It wasn't just my hometown. It wasn't just your hometown. It was every hometown.
In the state of Massachusetts, the great pandemic struck. On August the 27th, the first cases were found two sailors at Commonwealth Pier. The next day, there were eight cases. The day after that, there were 60 cases. Within two weeks, 2,000 people were suffering with the influenza. On the 8th of September, it struck Camp Devens, where there were 50,000 soldiers.
I found an account by a physician whose name only I know to be Roy. I don't know any more about him, but he obviously was there to attend soldiers who had been struck. I'd like to read something from his journal, and I'd like to tell you, this is a rather graphic description, but it's important to understand that what we're talking about here isn't just the flu. This is a killer disease.
He said this epidemic started four weeks ago and has developed so rapidly that the camp is demoralized and all ordinary work is held up till it passes. These men start with what appears to be an ordinary attack of influenza, and when they're brought to the hospital, very rapidly they develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that I have ever seen. Two hours after admission, they have mahogany spots over their cheeks. In a few hours you can begin to see the cyanosis extending from their ears all over their face until they can hardly be distinguished from the colored men when you can hardly distinguished the colored men from the white.
It's only a matter of hours until death comes, and it's simply a struggle for air until they suffocate. It is horrible. One can stand to see one, two or 20 men die; but to see these poor devils dropping like flies sort of gets on your nerves. We've been averaging about 100 a day, and it just keeps coming.
By the time the pandemic had stopped in Massachusetts, 45,000 people had died.