Chicago to Springfield: Crime and Politics in the 1920s (Images of America)

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In the meantime, he suggested that everyone curtail his or her usual Saturday night revelry, go to bed early, and get plenty of rest on Sunday. Whether or not Chicagoans followed his advice, by Monday, October 28 the case tallies had declined enough to warrant serious consideration of removing the bans.

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Robertson and the Health Department drafted a tentative plan that called for the step-by-step and district-by-district return to normal city life over the course of a week. On Wednesday the 30th, theaters and movie houses between Howard and Diversey Parkway could re-open. The following day, theaters and movie houses between Diversey Parkway and 12th Street could resume their hours. On Friday, November 1, the rest of the city could re-open.

Public meetings were to follow a similar schedule starting on Thursday, with all meetings allowed in all parts of the city by Saturday, November 2. Theaters had to pass inspection before they could re-open their doors, coughers and sneezers were prohibited from entering, no crowding would be allowed, and all public places were required to close by 10 pm.

Conditions in Chicago continued to improve even as residents mixed and mingled in theaters, movie houses, cabarets, and restaurants. In most cities, the removal of social distancing measures was met with a great deal of joy. In Chicago, it was met with some grumbling, aimed primarily at Health Commissioner Robertson. During the epidemic, Robertson had banned smoking on all streetcars, elevated trains, and suburban light rail lines. Robertson advised that all revelers therefore get an extra half hour sleep on Sunday morning in return.

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The following day, when the last remaining flu bans were about to be removed, the Tribune continued its attack on Robertson. The white population of the city experienced an increase in deaths of 2, percent over the previous year. The African American population, on the other hand, experienced an increase of only 1, percent.

Epidemic influenza, a disease that did not respect color or socioeconomic lines, therefore only appeared to attack whites with more virulence. Doctors and nurses worked around the clock during the crisis.


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Morris Fishbein, a prominent Chicago doctor and later editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association , wrote in his memoirs that most Chicago physicians visited some sixty to ninety patients each day during the height of the epidemic, unable to do much besides try to make them comfortable. In fact, with a population of 2. In January , with the main danger over, Health Commissioner Robertson turned his attention to correcting some of the shortcomings the city experienced during the crisis. Highest on his list was the nursing shortage.

In , after several failed attempts, the Illinois legislature had passed a law creating a board to register trained nurses after two years of schooling. At the time, Robertson opposed the bill, arguing that it would drive up the cost of nurses and create a system whereby those of only modest means would not be able to afford adequate care. If the army could churn out perfectly good officers in three months, he argued, good nurse educators should be able to do the same. First, hospitals should immediately modify their curricula so that two classes of nurses could be trained. One track would become registered nurses, while the other would take six months of intensive training.

Second, the state legislature should change current nursing law to allow for the training of these practical nurses as well as lower the number of years required of registered nurses from three to two. Lastly, Robertson suggested that if Illinois lawmakers did not act, then Chicago should take the lead in licensing practical nurses much the same way as it licensed undertakers. His ideas were welcomed by some and angrily dismissed by others.

A group of supportive physicians offered to travel to Springfield to support the bill if necessary. The Journal of the American Medical Association endorsed the idea of a separate track of practical nurses in an editorial blaming trained nurses for the current woes. On February 18, , the new nursing bill was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly.

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The bill provided for a one-year course of training for practical nurses, granted authority to the State Board of Registration to license those who passed the training, and made it illegal to pose as a registered nurse unless entitled to do so. Hospitals, which would benefit from the lower cost of practical nurses, supported the bill. Registered nurses, who stood to lose some control over their profession and who feared a decrease in their wages, naturally opposed it. The bill passed.

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Nearly women completed the inaugural class, and within two years some 3, women had passed the course. When influenza returned in , of these graduates answered the call for volunteers, exactly as Health Commissioner Robertson had hoped they would. The program worked so well that Robertson instituted a second similar program in connection with the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Pneumonia had been a reportable disease in Chicago since , and a placardable disease since As a result of the ban on public dancing, Chicago went without a weekday public dance event for the first time since the infamous Iroquois Theater fire of December 30, , where over people died.

Chicago police eagerly enforced the new rules. A second saloon, this one on West Van Buren, was raided when police found men bellied up to the bar two deep.

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Fifteen violators from that bar, along with the manager, were taken to jail. Then Snooze as J. Precautions are taken to prevent influenza spreading to remaining 50, sailors. Tell them to go to bed and lie quiet a while. All of the afflicted are in isolation. Acting Chief of Police John Alcock orders all police station captains to arrest persons caught spitting.

Health Commissioner Robertson warns that influenza is highly contagious and recommends that in the case of infection a doctor be called immediately because pneumonia often follows influenza and can lead to death. Health Commissioner Robertson notifies physicians that they must report the names of all patients showing signs of influenza. Captain W. Seventeen cases are reported throughout Chicago. Health authorities recommend that those exposed to influenza wear gauze masks to prevent catching it. Notices are posted asking citizens to cover their nose and mouth when they cough or sneeze.

Health Commissioner Robertson says that the public has been told how to protect itself, and that he sees no danger ahead. Clair Drake, State Director of Public Health, orders all cases of the influenza reported to the local authorities. Drake also announces an order that only relatives may attend funerals of influenza victims. Health Commissioner Robertson warns those sick to stay home until well. He also recommends that they stay warm so they can avoid contracting pneumonia.

He asserts that it should be criminal for landlords to deny heat to tenants suffering from influenza. Two deaths related to influenza are reported in Chicago. He orders a number of Health Department employees to wear masks as a way to promote their use. Medical section of the State Council of Defense receives orders from the National Defense Council in Washington to mobilize military and civilian doctors to combat the epidemic.

Citizens living in north shore towns owning telephones are being asked to limit their calls to only those necessary because operators out sick with influenza. State Director of Public Health Drake publishes an article in the Chicago Herald and Examiner compiling a series of suggested precautions. The Emergency Medical Community issues a set of instructions for preventing and treating the flu, including: avoiding crowds; avoiding those who appear sick with a cold; staying warm; and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Health Commissioner Robertson orders a quarantine for every influenza victim. Every victim of the disease is commanded to go to his home and stay there.


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No visitors are to be allowed. State Director of Public Health Drake orders all hospital staff to wear masks continually. Twenty-five West Side Hospital nurses are sick and three have died. Twenty-four nurses are sick at Presbyterian Hospital. There are reports of sick staff at Wesley and St. Peter Reinberg, President of County Board, closes County Hospital to all visitors except relatives wishing to visit those dying from other diseases.

County Hospital is full to capacity with cases.

Due to insufficient hospital space to house and isolate flu sufferers, authorities ask Chicago residents to volunteer their houses and businesses. State Director of Public Health Drake issues an order excluding visitors from hospitals and other places holding influenza patients. Charles H. Thorne, Director of State Public Welfare, instructs wardens of all state institutions to impose a quarantine of their establishments.

Theater owners are ready to show slides and cartoons that will educate public about the spread of influenza. Landlords are starting to be prosecuted for failing to provide heat to tenants. He also asks newspapers to put out a call for all women with training in nursing to volunteer.

Numerous people have volunteered the use of their homes as makeshift hospitals. Jesse F. Goldberg has granted use of 15 of his apartments buildings.

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