With the direction COVID-19 has taken, experts have compared the virus to the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic. Each outbreak affected Missouri State University’s campus in their own ways.
Tuesday, Oct. 1, 1918
Because of World War I, colleges across the country were encouraged to form Student Army Training Corps (S.A.T.C.) for military training purposes for male students. Missouri State, first called Fourth District Normal School, inducted its cadets.
During the induction ceremony, six cadets fainted, as well as four Drury cadets fainted across town.
“This is when it had become very apparent that the Spanish flu reached Springfield,” Scott Whitely Carter, a Missouri State alumus and MSU historian, said.
Later that evening, Springfield Mayor J.J. Gideon announced the closure of all theaters, pool halls, schools, churches and large public gatherings. The only exception were congregations of war-related efforts.
Gideon is quoted saying, “We have to win the war, even if we all die here.”
Friday, March 13, 2020
Just days before, the coronavirus was attacking America, shutting down the NBA. In a mere 72 hours, the outbreak shut down sports. All collegiate conferences were canceling play, and professional sports were right alongside them.
In the same manner, the Missouri Valley Conference canceled all intercollegiate competitions, including the women’s basketball tournament. The Lady Bears, who led the Valley, were set to compete at the conference tournament in Moline, Illinois.
This ban also applied to spring sports, meaning no baseball, softball, beach volleyball, tennis, track and field or golf for Missouri State athletics.
Wednesday, Oct. 2, 1918
The Board of Health reinforced Gideon’s announcement, outlawing public gatherings.
The BOH declared a city-wide shut down for 32 days. This was called “The Ban.” It was quarantine by mutual consent, meaning if people didn’t feel good, they stayed home.
Store hours were altered to limit the amount of exposure and to offset the lack of employees. The jail was also closed to visitors.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Missouri State University added an extra week of Spring Break. A university release also said classes will move to online-only instruction on March 30 for the rest of the spring semester.
The university stated it would provide a social-distancing schedule for students wanting to move out of the residence halls. Residence halls remained open for those who couldn’t leave.
Campus library services, computer labs, Magers Health and Wellness, and the Plaster Student Union remained open.
The university release also said nonacademic events such as Greek Jam, Star Awards and scholarship banquets were canceled.
Tuesday, Oct. 15, 1918
With the cancelation of classes, campus was slow, although not completely empty.
The football team was scrimmaging on campus every day. Their schedule was rearranged, originally set to play six games beginning in October. Due to the epidemic, Normal canceled its games within the 32-day quarantine order.
An old issue of The Standard said, “Athletics has lost its pep and enthusiasm.”
S.A.T.C. cadets were also on campus, still training and taking classes as usual. Though the epidemic was still raging on, so was the war, and the war took precedent in these times.
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Following three COVID-19 related deaths, Greene County announced a 30-day stay-at-home order. Under these guidelines and restrictions, Springfield residents were only allowed to leave their homes for grocery trips, outdoor exercising or work at essential businesses.
This meant all nonessential businesses closed their doors, including dine-in restaurants, clothing stores, theaters, bars and schools.
A violation of the order resulted in a fine of up to $1,000 or 180 days in jail.
Sunday, Nov. 3, 1918
After 32 days of “The Ban,” Springfield reopened theaters and pool halls and stores were open their normal hours. Two hundred and fifty four Spanish-flu related deaths occurred in Springfield during this time, at least four of which were S.A.T.C. cadets.
Saturday, April 21, 2020
Springfield-Greene County health officials extended the stay-at-home order an extra four days.
Beginning immediately, nonessential businesses could reopen for curbside pickup and delivery.
Since the initial order nearly a month earlier, the Springfield community saw 93 total COVID-19 cases, 35 of which are still active. The pandemic has taken eight Springfield lives so far, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health website.
How they compare
Both viruses were unprecedented, and no one knew how to prepare for them. There was no effective cure or vaccine for the Spanish flu, similar to the current situation with the coronavirus.
However, people reacted much differently to the Spanish flu than they are COVID-19. In 1918, societies and organizations would still conduct meetings, putting their minutes in the local newspaper and nobody shamed them for being out and about.
“That’s a big difference now,” Thomas Dicke, a Missouri State professor and historian, said. “In 1918, they had newspapers for mass communication, and that was it. Now, it’s much easier to find out information.”
Dicke said people were shocked when the Spanish flu became so deadly because the flu had never been lethal before. Back then, Americans couldn’t understand the crisis until it was too late. Now, people have a better sense of such dangers.
Springfield’s stay-at-home order ends on May 4 at midnight in an attempt to gradually reopen the city.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced last week that all businesses, including non-essential, could reopen as long as they followed occupancy restrictions and continued to abide by the CDC’s 6-feet rule.