We can do this Wisconsin

We’ve been down this road before, Wisconsin, and, it turns out, we’re pretty well-equipped for the journey.

We just need to stay home, wash our hands and listen to Dr. Fauci.

Back in 1918, as the Spanish Flu made its way across the globe, Wisconsin had its own Dr. Fauci, leading the fight against it in unprecedented ways.

Aided by geography, foresight and a bi-partisan effort that let medical experts mandate public health policies, Wisconsin fared far better than almost any state, according to an article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History. Spearheading that effort was State Health Officer Dr. Cornelius A. Harper.

Dr. Harper didn’t mess around. Having been appointed to Wisconsin’s Public Health Board in 1908 by then Governor Robert La Follette, Dr. Harper already had a public health infrastructure in place by the time the pandemic made its way into Wisconsin, which it did swiftly.

“During the week of September 28, 1918, one of the first cases of influenza in Wisconsin appeared when two sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station fell ill while visiting Milwaukee,” Steven Burg wrote. “Upon realizing that the two had the flu, the city health department immediately conducted a telegram canvass of the city’s physicians, who reported only ninety-eight patients with bad colds or flu. The health department requested physicians to report any new influenza cases immediately. Six cases were reported on Sept. 26, twenty-four on Sept. 27, 62 on Sept. 28 and 97 on Sept. 30. On October 2, 1918, a two-day decline in the number of cases was followed by the first four influenza deaths. Five days later, 256 new cases were reported, together with nine additional deaths.”

On that day, Oct. 10, 1918, Dr. Harper issued an immediate order to close all Wisconsin schools and non-essential businesses.

“”Never before in the history of the state has it become necessary to close schools, churches, theaters, saloons; in fact, everything except factories, offices, and places of regular employment,” Burg wrote. “This followed a recommendation issued by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Rupert Blue suggesting that public health officers might consider closing public institutions should local conditions warrant such action; but nowhere except in Wisconsin was such an order issued statewide or in such a comprehensive fashion.”

As a result, Wisconsin’s death rate of 2.91 per thousand from the pandemic was far less than the national average of 4.16 per thousand.

As we make our way into a fresh, new month I just thought a little historical encouragement might be a nice boost.

These measures are difficult, but they are neither without merit, nor precedent.

We can do this Wisconsin.

Stay home. Save Lives.


During the Spanish Influenza pandemic, health officials hung these signs on any residence housing an infected person.
This 1918 political cartoon showcases early efforts at social distancing,
We’ve got a ways to go in this Safer at Home journey, but if we stay the course, we’ll get through it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He has served under six presidents and won the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. When he says StayHome, we listen and then we live.

2 thoughts on “We can do this Wisconsin

  1. Hi Laura,

    I loved reading your blog post today about the Spanish Flu here in Wisconsin. I have a picture I would love to show you. How can I send it to you?

    Lisa Kramer

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