Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic, When Many Schools Closed

Diane Ravitch's blog

I was recently contacted by a journalist who asked me if there was any precedent for the current school closings in response to a health crisis.

My first impulse was to say “no,” based on my knowledge of history, but I started googling before responding.

I googled “school closings” and “1918 flu epidemic” and found this excellent article by Alexandra M. Stern, Marin S. Cetron, and Howard Markel, published in 2009.

https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.28.6.w1066

The authors wrote in 2009, in relation to an outbreak of the A/H1N1 influenza of that year:

”Nine decades before our current encounter with a novel strain of influenza virus, the deadly second wave of the 1918–19 influenza pandemic struck the United States. In response, most urban communities closed K–12 public schools for an extended period of time, in some locations for as long as fifteen weeks. Typically, the order to close schools came late in the epidemic…

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