A hundred years later, we look back on Nebraska’s most severe pandemic
WITH BUSINESSES SHUT DOWN AND PEOPLE WEARING MASKS IN PUBLIC, LIFE DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC SEEMS UNFAMILIAR. BUT, IT’S ACTUALLY SOMETHING NEBRASKA HAS SEEN BEFORE.
“It was 102 years ago, it was the later part of 1918”.
During World War I, what was called the “Spanish Flu” caused a global pandemic.
“It was early October when it reached Nebraska,” said History Nebraska Editor David Bristow. “There was a local pastor, about 35 years old, who died after a short illness of only 48 hours. So, it struck very suddenly.. Within the next few weeks it had spread across the state”.
TO SLOW THE SPREAD, THEY SET LOCAL AND STATE-WIDE RESTRICTIONS, CLOSING SCHOOLS AND LIMITING GATHERINGS. Bristow said “there was actually a Nebraska football game, the big game against Notre Dame was canceled. That was a big rivalry!”
History Nebraska even cites one instance of a Gering Mall Santa being arrested in front of hundreds of children for violating the local ban that December.
By January, the worst was believed to be over for Nebraska. Although, since our medical systems were so overwhelmed at the time, good records were not kept. So, we may never know the full impact of this pandemic.
“We don’t even know how many people died from the flu in Nebraska… the numbers range from 2,800 to 7,500”.
Despite the hundred years worth of advancement between the pandemics, it seems the spirit of Nebraska hasn’t changed much.
“Some things seem to always be constant,” shared Bristow. “Even though this was happening in the middle of a world war there were volunteer efforts… a lot of people pitched in and did what they could and, of course, we are seeing the same thing happening today”.