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Will anti-maskers learn lessons from Spanish Flu?

Health Analytics 徽标 Health Analytics 2020/6/29 Health Analytics
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Anti-mask protests in the US draws a parallel to the Spanish Flu — one of the most infamous pandemics the world saw almost a century ago. But it’s time we learn from past mistakes to avoid the second wave of COVID-19.

By Health Analytics Asia

Conflicting views and regulations around the effectiveness of masks to slow the spread of the virus has given birth to anti-mask protests in the US.

While many protesters claimed the measures were trampling on their constitutional rights, a few others argued that the measures weren’t working anyway.

However, the protests draw parallels to the 1918 flu pandemic when the anti-mask protestors practiced anti-mask advocacy on account of violation of their civil liberties.

It even led to violence at some places and as a result, a special officer for the board of health in the US shot a man as well as two bystanders who refused to wear masks.

However, the majority of people complied with the mask-wearing guidelines and wore their masks.

Similar anti-mask rhetoric is now present in the modern-day COVID-19 health crisis. In fact, social media is abuzz with speakers at a public hearing in Florida who slammed County commissioners ahead of voting that happened last week to discuss the face mask law. Residents were invited to air their objections to a proposed law that makes face masks mandatory inside buildings and outdoors where it is impossible to socially distance.

One woman speaker while expressing her outrage over the mask requirement said, “You cannot make it mandatory to wear a mask, as mask literary is killing people. We, the people are waking up and every single one of you that is obeying the devil’s laws is going to be arrested and your doctor(s) are going to be arrested for crimes against humanity.”

Another speaker from the crowd said, “They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door. You are all turning your backs on it.”

A woman while addressing pro-mask advocates added, “I really have many questions about your degrees and what you really know. I don’t think you are worthy of your credentials. I would ask suggestively that you go back to school and get educated.”

The debate, open for the public, took place prior to the unanimous vote in favor of the mask requirement. During the public comments some of these speakers, as The Daily Beast reports, denied that masks were effective against spreading COVID-19 and accused officials of playing God, violating the Constitution, and threatening freedom and lives by imposing the measure.

“Every single one of you has a smirk behind that little mask, but every single one of you is going to get punished by God. You cannot escape God … not even with the mask or 6 feet,” said a woman speaker.

A speaker who said she had a medical condition that prevented her from wearing a mask told the commissioners she didn’t believe there was any evidence that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19. “You’re not God. You’re removing our freedoms and stomping on our constitutional rights by these communist dictatorship orders… If you do vote to mandate masks in the workplace and public schools and stores, the death of many will be on your hands.”

Earlier, Scottsdale City Councilman Guy Phillips in Arizona is seen in a video that’s gone viral on social media. He’s shouting “I can’t breathe” before removing his mask at an Anti-Mask Rally in Arizona. Phillips had also posted a flyer on Facebook while asking residents to join him to protest mandatory mask-wearing.

The protest was titled “Unmask Us” and asked “Any Citizen of AZ who believes wearing a mask is a personal choice, and not a mandate” to “put your best face forward.”

Phillips addressed the crowd of over two hundred people by pulling off his mask and said, “I can’t breathe,” the words spoken by George Floyd before he died last month at the hands of Minneapolis police, which sparked protests around the country,” according to azcentral.com.

Just like the present scenario, the arguments of mask slackers during the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919 that killed up to 50 million people worldwide were on the same lines. That time too, in the United States and at other places across the globe, the governments took similar measures of lockdown as they have been doing to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measures included shutting down of schools and places of public amusement, enforcing “no-spitting” ordinances, encouraging people to use handkerchiefs or disposable tissues, and requiring people to wear masks in public.”

Mask-wearing ordinances mainly popped up in the western states, and it appears most people complied with them.

According to history.com, in 1918, advanced masks like the N95s that healthcare workers use today were a long way off. Surgical masks were made of gauze, and many people’s flu masks were made of gauze too.

According to history.com, in 1918, advanced masks like the N95s that healthcare workers use today were a long way off. Surgical masks were made of gauze, and many people’s flu masks were made of gauze too.

Cities that passed masking ordinances in the fall of 1918 struggled to enforce them among the small portion of people who rebelled. Common punishments during those times were fines, prison sentences, and having names of defaulters printed in the newspaper.

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