On September 19, Worcester experienced its first influenza-related death. Young James W. Roche, only 25 years old, had come from the Newport Naval Training School on furlough to visit his parents at 142 West Street. Shortly after his arrival, he fell so ill with influenza that he was taken to City Hospital, where he subsequently died. Two days later, his mother died of influenza as well. Then, as if the family had not suffered enough, the father, a Worcester patrolman, died of influenza. The Roche family’s tragedy was also the start of Worcester’s epidemic.1,2
Aware of the epidemics unfolding in communities across Massachusetts and the threat now posed to his city, Worcester Mayor Pehr Gustaf Holmes immediately contacted the Board of Health and school officials to set a meeting for Monday, September 23 to discuss the situation.3 By the time they met, there were already scores of influenza cases in Worcester. City Hospital had so many cases that Superintendent Charles Drew feared that, unless the patients recovered quickly, the hospital would be forced to turn away new cases. Several nurses and doctors were sick with influenza, compounding the hospital’s troubles. St. Vincent’s Hospital had already barred visitors from entering in an effort to keep influenza away from patients. Drew suggested that the city begin meeting the crisis head-on by proactively erecting temporary emergency hospitals. Together with Mayor Holmes, the two issued an urgent appeal for volunteer graduate nurses 4 Although the epidemic was starting to grow worse, the Worcester Board of Health believed that if the public was careful about covering sneezes and coughs and if the ill remained in their homes and out of crowds, the disease could be combated.5
Several school principals, however, were not content with the Board’s wait-and-see approach. Cool, damp weather had left many classrooms unbearably cold, and five principals had taken advantage of a school board rule that allowed teachers to dismiss classrooms if the room temperature dipped below 60 degrees by closing their entire building. Their argument was that the damp and chilly conditions in the classrooms would help spread influenza. Two days later, on September 25, fifteen more schools closed either in part or in whole due to cold conditions and numerous complaints from concerned parents. The day after that, school officials ordered all Worcester public schools except North High School closed due to the cold, rainy weather. Mayor Holmes, previously determined not to use fuel until December 1, relaxed his position and released cords of wood for use in the city’s schools, tasking janitors with driving the dampness from the buildings but warning them to use only as much coal and wood as absolutely necessary.6
Worcester’s epidemic was undoubtedly growing worse, although, with influenza not listed as a reportable disease, no one could say for sure just how bad the situation really was. Board of Health Executive Officer James C. Coffey believed that it would be difficult if not impossible to get physicians to report cases of influenza unless Massachusetts authorities mandated them to do so. Thus far, the only sources of information on new cases were either hospital reports or newspaper accounts, neither of which accurately reflected the state of the epidemic. Neither Coffey nor Board of Health Chairman Dr. Edward Trowbridge seem inclined to issue a local decree making influenza reportable in Worcester, as countless other health officials across the United States had or would do in their own communities.
Indeed, no Worcester official seemed willing to take charge of the situation, instead opting to wait for state authorities to lead. When Acting Governor Calvin Coolidge issued a proclamation on September 24 recommending that all communities across the state immediately close their schools, theaters, and other public places and to cancel public gatherings, the Board of Health responded that it would only do so when directly compelled by the state.7 On September 26, the Massachusetts Emergency Public Health Committee requested that local authorities issue closure orders and public gathering bans. That evening, the Worcester Board of Health finally took action. Meeting well into the night with Mayor Holmes, who gave his full approval, the three-man committee unanimously voted to close immediately all schools (including private and parochial schools), theaters, movie houses, dance halls, public halls, and other places of amusement until the morning of Monday, October 7. The Board also ordered the water department to shut-off the flow to all public drinking fountains. The upcoming Fourth Liberty Loan parade was postponed, and the Liberty election cancelled. Churches and lodges were permitted to remain, although Holmes did ask the public to do their part by avoiding crowds.8 The action came none too soon. People were beginning to wonder if anyone was in charge. As one newspaper reported opined, “If there ever was a time in which the man of the hour was needed in Worcester it is today. And from the talk on the streets and all around the city no one appears on the scene large enough to grapple with it.”9 Now, at least, residents need only worry about the epidemic, and not whether their officials were up to the task of combating it.
The situation was rapidly deteriorating. The local chapter of the Red Cross was receiving over a dozen calls for help each day, but there were too few nurses to answer them all. The police were ready and able to transport sick residents to City Hospital, but it was already full. It was also sorely lacking in nurses; nearly fifty nurses and attendants at City Hospital were sick with influenza. The Board of Health made tentative plans to establish an emergency facility at the Board of Health’s Belmont Hospital to handle more cases, but was reluctant to do so unless the situation grew more severe.10
United States Congressman Samuel E. Winslow believed the situation was severe enough already. To help ameliorate the overcrowding at City Hospital, Winslow–also head of the hospital’s board of trustees–coordinated with representatives of Worcester’s hospitals to establish and supervise an emergency hospital at the Worcester Agricultural Society buildings on the Greendale Fairgrounds. With the help of the E. J. Cross construction and the Norton manufacturing companies, volunteers began renovating and outfitting several buildings at the fairgrounds, including an old dance hall, with a goal of opening the facility on October 2.11 In addition to manpower, the Norton Company provided medical, lighting, and sanitary equipment for the emergency hospital, as well as three physicians.12 At Belmont, director Dr. May S. Holmes busied herself preparing an emergency ward.13
Despite the heroic efforts of the construction volunteers, work on preparing the Greendale hospital took a few days longer than initially anticipated and it did not open until Friday, October 4.14 The short delay mattered little anyway, as securing staff for the new hospital proved difficult; an estimated one-third of Worcester’s nurses were themselves ill with influenza. The city’s four hundred graduate nurses and thirty volunteers were already busy tending to home cases. The Board of Health and Worcester’s various nursing organizations made an urgent appeal for nurses and orderlies to staff the new facility. In an effort to make the work of the city’s 400 healthy graduate nurses and its 30 volunteers more efficient, the Board met with representatives of the Central Registry of Nurses, the District Nursing Association, and the Red Cross to develop a plan. The group decided that no more than one nurse should be stationed on any one given street in order to avoid duplication of effort. The Board also requested that undertakers hold only private funerals.15
The two emergency hospitals opened just in the nick of time. By October 7, all the regular city hospitals were completed filled, and the emergency hospitals were expected to reach capacity within a day. Dr. Charles Drew, Superintendent of City Hospital, decried the city’s lack of leadership and the inefficiency in the handling of Worcester’s epidemic. Early in the epidemic he had called for emergency measures to be taken so that the city would not be caught in this desperate situation. Now, Drew believed that decisions regarding the control of the epidemic should be placed in the hands of a single governing body with a strong executive to oversee all the nurses, volunteers, and physicians and to handle the issues of housing, caseloads, food and material aid, and the like. Although he never directly blamed Coffey, Trowbridge, or the Board of Health in general, it was clear that Drew placed little faith in their abilities or their management of the crisis.16
Meanwhile, both state and local officials tightened their epidemic control measures. On October 2, the state Board of Health made influenza a reportable disease.17 Finally, Worcester officials would have a better indicator of the progress of the epidemic. From what they knew already from the death certificates issued, it had become worse: over 140 residents had died from influenza or pneumonia in the nine days since the “official” start of the epidemic, although, due to the shortage of physicians available to sign death certificates, this number was assumed to be on the low side. Mayor Holmes himself was now sick with influenza. Initially reluctant to implement a closure order, on October 4 the Board voted to extend it for an additional week, through October 12. It also added churches to the list of closed places.18
The extension of the closure order meant that the popular Worcester Music Festival, scheduled to take place on October 7, would have to be postponed, and that the city’s Columbus Day Parade, scheduled for October 12, would be cancelled. Many residents were upset with the decision, most of all theater interests. The Worcester Theater Managers’ Association immediately protested the Board’s action, declaring it unfair that their businesses should be shuttered while the city’s saloons, bowling alleys, and pool halls be allowed to continue to earn money. The Association called for all non-essential businesses to be closed immediately so that the epidemic could be brought to a swift end. Joining them was the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), particularly strong amongst Worcester’s large population of Swedish Protestants. The president of the local chapter of the WCTU, Amanda Peterson, wrote a scathing attack on city authorities for closing churches but not saloons. “Is it any healthier to pass your night in a saloon drinking some poisonous concoction mixed by some bartender who might find some more essential and manly trade than mixing drinks for these poor creatures,” she asked rhetorically, “say going to church and listening to the word of God?”19
By October 7, with the first several batches of daily case reports tabulated, the Board of Health could see that the influenza epidemic was still serious. Just over 100 cases had been reported two days earlier; now, that number had jumped to 357. Whether out of concern for the epidemic’s trend, pressure from constituents (angry theater managers and employees especially), or both, the Board voted to expand the list of public places affected by the order. In a sweeping addendum effective at midnight the next day, it now added all saloons, soda fountains, bowling alleys, pool halls, slot machine parlors, and public auctions to the list of closed businesses. The Board also banned bargain sales, limited the number of vehicles at funerals to four, and prohibited chairs at wakes and funerals to encourage shorter services.20
Fortunately, Worcester had already weathered the worst of the epidemic. Unused to reporting cases of influenza and overtaxed in their other duties, initially many physicians were delayed in reporting influenza cases. This made it difficult for officials to discern with any degree of certainty the state of the city’s epidemic. Now, however, the figures appeared to be trending downward, despite some occasional hiccups in the reporting system. By October 12, the Board of Health was guardedly optimistic that the closure order could be removed shortly.21 Six days later, the Board met and decided that the epidemic situation had improved enough to allow Worcester to reopen. Starting at midnight on Tuesday, October 22, Worcester could return to business as usual and, on Wednesday morning, children could return to their classrooms.22
The news was met with mixed reception. Theater, saloon, pool hall, ice cream parlor, and other affected business owners were undoubtedly thrilled, and went straightaway to preparing for the reopening.23 Church leaders were divided. Catholic clergy claimed that conditions were normal in their parishes. A group of five priests had met with the Board during its deliberations on reopening the city and asked that they be allowed to hold services on that Sunday. Protestant ministers, on the other hand, thought that caution was the better part of valor. The Interdenominational Ministers’ Association presented the Board with a petition asking it to keep the closure order in place until the epidemic was over completely.24 Charles Drew, Superintendent at City Hospital was of a similar mind, and recommended that the Board move cautiously. The number of new cases was declining, he admitted, but the overall number was still quite high. The head of the District Nurses Association, Rosabelle Jacobus, agreed but used even stronger words. “It is absolutely ridiculous to think of yet lifting the ban on the closing of public places,” she told reporters. “Things are clearing up, but it has not yet cleared off; things are better, but it is not over.” Scores of parents spoke out against the Board’s action as well, stating that they would not send their children to school on Wednesday out of fear that they would get sick. Dr. Francis Underwood, a member of the school committee, agreed with these concerned parents. He blasted the Board of Health for not consulting with the school board–of which three of its members were physicians–before voting to rescind the closure order. He even went so far as to advise the parents of all of his patients as well as all parents with whom he had spoken to keep their children out of school for at least the remainder of the week.25
Despite the reaction from some groups, the reopening went ahead as scheduled. The number of new cases continued to drop, and the number of influenza patients in Worcester’s hospitals–including the emergency ward at Belmont and the Greendale facility–continued to decline.26 The Interdenominational Ministers’ Association quickly changed its stance, and voted to make the first Sunday after reopening a “Go-to-Church” day, urging all parishioners to attend services.27 Schools, of course, reopened, although some parents did indeed keep their children at home.28 By the end of October, Worcester’s various relief agencies concluded their influenza work. The epidemic was essentially over.
By mid-December, Worcester physicians were reporting an average of forty or so influenza cases per day to the Board of Health. City Hospital was caring for 25 influenza patients, and there were an additional 28 cases at the influenza ward at Belmont Hospital. Board of Health Executive Officer James Coffey announced that the Greendale emergency facility would reopen if necessary, but for now the situation did not warrant any further action. It is likely the Board would have had difficulty staffing Greendale if it did reopen, given that the city’s nursing organizations reported that their nurses were once again overworked by the recent spate of cases. The city’s affluent West Side was particularly hard hit, and Red Cross nurses were busy caring for the hundred or so patients there, leaving precious few nurses to tend to Worcester’s other cases.29
As December rolled into January, the epidemic finally came to a close. Doctor’s reported occasional cases throughout the winter, but they were far fewer in number and generally milder in nature than during the fateful days of October. Overall, Worcester physicians reported 6,884 cases of influenza and pneumonia and 1,294 resultant deaths to the Board of Health during the epidemic.30 That number is undoubtedly low, as influenza was not made a reportable disease until early-October and the reported case-fatality rate (CFR) was entirely too high. Typically, American cities experienced an influenza CFR (the number of people who died divided by the number of cases of influenza) of approximately 2.5%. For Worcester, that would place the number of influenza cases at an estimated 52,000, or nearly a third of its overall population. The city’s excess death rate (EDR) for the entire epidemic period (September 1918 through February 1919) was rather high: 655 per 100,000 people. By comparison, Lowell’s was 523, and Cambridge’s was 541, and Fall River’s was 621. Of Massachusetts’ cities, only Boston’s EDR (710) was higher.
Perhaps more important than these figures, however, is the way in which Worcester handled its epidemic. Saddled by an indecisive Board of Health with no clear leader and with a mayor who seemed equally unwilling to take charge, the city opted to take its cues from Massachusetts officials rather than plot its own course. It waited for state health officials to make influenza a reportable disease, leaving it with no good source of information on the severity of the epidemic during those critical early days. Likewise, the Board only moved to close public places after the state board of health strongly urged local communities to do so. As a result, Worcester’s public health response time (the period between the time when the city’s epidemic became severe enough for health officials to take notice and the time when the first control measures were adopted) was 15 days, the longest of Massachusetts’ major cities.
1 “First Influenza Death in City,” Worcester Evening Post, 19 Sept. 1918, 1; “Two in family die from grip,” Worcester Evening Post, 21 Sept. 1918, 1; “Follows Son and Wife in Death,” Worcester Evening Post, 24 Sept. 1918, 1.
2 “Five Schools Closed Because of Sickness,” Worcester Evening Post, 23 Sept. 1918, 1.
3 “City plans to fight influenza,” Worcester Evening Post, 21 Sept. 1918, 3.
4 With City Hospital Unable to Care for More Influenza, Situation is Alarming,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 24 Sept. 1918, 2; “City Hospital Staff Nurse Grip Victim,” Worcester Evening Post, 24 Sept. 1918, 1.
5 “Five Schools Closed Because of Sickness,” Worcester Evening Post, 23 Sept. 1918, 1.
6 “Five schools closed because of sickness,” Worcester Evening Post, 23 Sept. 1918, 1; “Dismiss 15 schools to prevent grip,” Worcester Evening Post, 25 Sept. 1918, 1; “City Will Not Close Schools or Theaters,” 26 Sept. 1918, 1; “Mayor Takes Action to Battle Grip in Schools,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 24 Sept. 1918, 18.
7 “City Will Not Close Schools or Theaters,” Worcester Evening Post, 26 Sept. 1918, 1.
8 “Health Board Orders Public Places Closed,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 27 Sept. 1918, 1; “Health Board Rulings for Fighting Influenza,” Worcester Evening Post, 27 Sept. 1918, 1.
9 “Hospital full, police worried,” Worcester Evening Post, 27 Sept.1918, 15.
10 “Nurses! Nurses! Heed this Call,” Worcester Evening Post, 27 Sept. 1918, 2; “Hospital Full, Police Worried,” Worcester Evening Post, 27 Sept. 1918, 15.
11 “To Open Hospital in Greendale Park,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 30 Sept. 1918, 1; “Big Funerals and Wakes Prohibited,” Worcester Evening Post, 30 Sept. 1918, 1; Annual Report of the Board of Health of the city of Worcester Massachusetts for the Year ending December 30, 1918 (Worcester, MA: Commonwealth Press, 1919), 299.
12 Forty-eighth Annual Report of the Trustees of the City Hospital Worcester, Massachusetts for the Year ending November 30, 1918 (Worcester, MA: Commonwealth Press, 1919), 481; “Emergency Hospital for Influenza Epidemic,” Norton Spirit, vol. 5, no. 3 (October 1918), 1, 6; “Patriotic service,” Norton Spirit, vol. 5, no. 3 (October 1918), 2.
13 “Washington Closes Theaters,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 4 Oct. 1918, 20.
14 “Washington Closes Theaters,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 4 Oct. 1918, 20.
15 “Big Funerals and Wakes Prohibited,” Worcester Evening Post, 30 Sept. 1918, 1.
16 “No Abatement Anywhere in Spread of Influenza,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 7 Oct. 1918, 12.
17 “Must Report Cases of Grip in This City,” Worcester Evening Post, 2 Oct. 1918, 1.
18 “Public Places of City Closed Another Week,” Worcester Evening Post, 4 Oct. 1918, 1.
19 “Theater Men Protest on New Order,” Worcester Evening Post, 4 Oct. 1918, 1; “Theatrical Men Act on Situation,” Worcester Evening Post, 5 Oct. 1918, 2; “’Close the Drinking Dens but Leave the Churches Open,’ says Mrs. Peterson,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 5 Oct. 1918, 2.
20 “Saloons Will Be Closed Tomorrow,” Worcester Evening Post, 7 Oct. 1918, 1.
21 “May Lift the Closing Ban Next Saturday,” Worcester Evening Post, 12 Oct. 1918, 2.
22 “Closing Ban off Tuesday at Midnight,” Worcester Evening Post, 18 Oct. 1918, 1.
23 “Health Board Lifts Ban and Worcester is Itself Again,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 23 Oct. 1918, 16.
24 “Worcester Health Board May Not Remove Grip Ban,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 18 Oct. 1918, 18; “Closing Ban off Tuesday at Midnight,” Worcester Evening Post, 18 Oct. 1918, 1.
25 “Ridiculous to Reopen Public Places, Says Nurse Jacobus,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 18 Oct. 1918, 18; “Health Board Lifts Ban and Worcester is Itself Again,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 23 Oct. 1918, 16.
26 “Health Board Lifts Ban and Worcester is Itself Again,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 22 Oct. 1918, 16.
27 “Go-to-Church Sunday Urged,” Worcester Evening Post, 25 Oct. 1918, 9.
28 “Catholic Emergency for Grip Sufferers Closes Tonight at 6 o’clock,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 24 Oct. 1918, 8.
29 “Plan No Drastic Anti-Grip Move,” Worcester Evening Post, 13 Dec. 1918, 2; “Fear Influenza is Paying City a Second Visit,” Worcester Evening Post, 18 Dec. 1918, 2; “Physicians Report 54 New Cases,” Worcester Daily Telegram, 19 Dec. 1918, 24; “West Side of the City Full of Influenza,” Worcester Evening Post, 31 Dec. 1918, 1.
30 “Annual Report of the Board of Health of the City of Worcester, Massachusetts for the Year ending December 30, 1918 (Worcester: Commonwealth Press, 1919), 883.
|200||Excess Death Rate (per 100,000)|
September 16, 1918
City health officials say they have received no reports of influenza as of today.
September 18, 1918
There are three probable cases at City Hospital, and a few suspected cases.
September 19, 1918
A sailor stationed at the Newport Training School becomes the first Worcester influenza death. He was admitted to the City Hospital on Saturday (9/14).
September 20, 1918
Massachusetts is hit hard by influenza, and there have already been several deaths in Worcester.
September 21, 1918
The mother of the sailor who died on September 19 dies from influenza today. Superintendent of Schools Harvey S. Gruver announces his intent to cooperate fully with health authorities in combating the influenza in schools. Officials are considering quarantining influenza patients at City Hospital, but City Hospital Superintendent Dr. Charles A. Drew does not believe this will be necessary.
September 23, 1918
The Worcester City Hospital is closed to influenza patients due to an influenza outbreak among the nurses. The Hospital is also filled to capacity and is now under quarantine. Five principals close schools today after conferring with Superintendent of Schools Gruver. The Board of Health instructs the public to take precautionary measures.
September 24, 1918
The father of the sailor who died on September 19 dies of influenza today. Due to coal conservation needs, wood will be used to heat public schools and City departments. Judge Samuel Utley bars all visitors from the Central District Court, except those with legitimate business. St. Vincent Hospital bars visitors to prevent the spread of influenza. Two nurses die at City Hospital today.
September 25, 1918
Fifteen schools close this morning due to fears of dampness and low temperatures in buildings. There is a high demand for nurses throughout city hospitals. Mayor Pehr Gustaf Holmes urges the public to take precautions. Chairman of the Board of Health Dr. Edward H. Trowbridge says Worcester will not follow closing recommendations by the State Emergency Public Health Committee.
September 26, 1918
All Worcester schools, excepting North High School, close today due to rainy weather. Wood is needed at City buildings, and there have been complaints that room temperatures are not adequate. There are about 90 patients at City Hospital. The Liberty Loan committee calls off elections and a parade scheduled for tomorrow evening.
September 27, 1918
The Board of Health votes to close all schools, theaters, motion picture houses, places of amusement, dance halls, and public halls from now until 10/7. Public fountain bubblers will be shut off as a preventive measure. All public entertainments are to be postponed for the next ten days. Board of Health Chairman Trowbridge issues a list of precautionary measures to the general public of Worcester. The Worcester Red Cross calls on women between 25 and 50 with experience of illness in their own homes to register as nurses.
September 28, 1918
Many church events have been canceled. The Board of Health plans to appeal to experience nurses and physicians to officiate emergency influenza cases. Belmont Hospital Supervisor Dr. May S. Holmes says she is able to handle all emergency cases of influenza and pneumonia in temporary hospitals. City Hospital reports nearly 50 nurses and attendants ill with influenza. Nearly all churches are closed today.
September 29, 1918
The Red Cross registers ten volunteers for nursing duties. More than 500 Red Cross volunteers make 3,000 masks for physicians and nurses.
September 30, 1918
The Board of Health requests that all funerals be private. Mayor Holmes and Board of Health members tour the emergency hospital being set up at the Greendale Fairgrounds. An emergency hospital advisory committee is established. Board of Health Executive Officer James C. Coffey believes the city has seen the worst of the epidemic.
October 1, 1918
Crews are working night and day to complete the emergency hospital at the Greendale fairgrounds. City Hospital reports two new nurses have contracted influenza. The Worcester Consolidated Street Railway Company reports over 75 workers ill with influenza. The Board of Health asks undertakers to report deaths.
October 2, 1918
City Hospital is not allowing any visitors. The emergency hospital is in need of male orderlies and experienced nurses. Mayor Holmes is confined to his bed with pneumonia.
October 3, 1918
The Greendale emergency hospital sends an urgent appeal for help, saying experience is not essential. The hospital will open on Saturday (10/5). Authorities claim influenza is waning in Worcester. Four more nurses at the City Hospital contract influenza.
October 4, 1918
Today is the first day that influenza is reported by physicians after the State Board of Health decision that influenza is a reportable disease. With the exception of saloons, closing orders are extended through 10/12. All churches are ordered closed this Sunday (10/6). The Red Cross asks for more nursing volunteers. A canteen for influenza victims is opened at the Y.W.C.A.
October 5, 1918
There are reports of new influenza outbreaks. Belmont Hospital reports 35 patients admitted at midnight. A Worcester City Hospital nursing unit that was sent to Camp Devens may be recalled given the shortage. The Worcester Red Cross receives 15,000 educational pamphlets from Red Cross headquarters. The Worcester Consolidated Street Railroad Company is fumigating cars nightly and ensuring windows are open.
October 7, 1918
Worcester hospitals are filled to capacity. There are 38 patients at the Greendale emergency hospital. Memorial Hospital has 80 patients. Belmont Hospital has reached capacity with 42 patients, many of who are children. The Red Cross will address the issue of orphaned children. The Board of Health orders saloons, soda fountains, bowling alleys, billiard halls, slot machine parlors, and public auctions to close tomorrow at midnight. Wholesale liquor stores are exempt from these orders. A quantity of anti-virus serum arrives and Dr. May S. Holmes administers doses at City Hall.
October 8, 1918
Board of Health Chairman Trowbridge says he, and the Board of Health, believe the peak of the epidemic has passed. The Board of Health votes to ban bargain sales, limits funeral processions to four vehicles, and prohibits undertakers from furnishing chairs at wakes. The Worcester Society of District Nursing is caring for 700 patients with only 20 nurses, and appeals for aid.
October 9, 1918
There is now a citywide ban on the sale of liquor in Worcester, excepting wholesale rum shops. The Board of Health reports indicate 439 cases of influenza and pneumonia. Board of Health Chairman Trowbridge believes the epidemic has reached its peak, but cautions the public to not relax their precautions. There are 352 cases reported today at the Board of Health.
October 10, 1918
Mayor Holmes is recovering from influenza. Health officials say it is impossible to determine the exact number of cases, as physicians have not reported all cases as of 10/4. At all hospitals there are more demands for admission than accommodations can provide. At the Worcester Consolidated Street Railway Company there are nearly 300 workers out sick with influenza. The Post Office is also grappling with sick workers.
October 11, 1918
There is still an urgent need for nurses. Teachers continue to volunteer their services while schools remain closed. City Hospital Superintendent Drew receives word that Camp Devens is unable to supply civilian nurses to Worcester during the epidemic. There are 215 cases reported to the Board of Health today.
October 12, 1918
The Liberty Day patriotic celebration is canceled today due to the epidemic and the ban on public gatherings. Executive Officer of the Board of Health James C. Coffey turns down an offer of help from the order of Notre Dame de Namur nuns, saying the disease is on the wane. Belmont Hospital has 33 patients, the Greendale emergency hospital has 71 patients, and Memorial Hospital has 86 cases. Conditions are much improved at Belmont.
October 14, 1918
Starting today the Guild of St. Agnes will work towards emergency services to combat influenza. Conditions are steadily improving at Belmont Hospital, and no deaths are reported today at Memorial Hospital. The Worcester Society for District Nursing has serviced over 1,000 cases this past month.
October 15, 1918
Numerous calls for assistance continue to pour into the Red Cross. There continues to be a need for women caretakers for households affected by the epidemic. The Greendale emergency hospital requests old linen as they have a great need for it. Miss Helen Davis Lane, of the Worcester farm bureau, leads a volunteer effort to make clothing for children affected by influenza. Cases have dropped at City, Belmont, Memorial, and Greendale hospitals. There are 139 cases reported today.
October 16, 1918
The Y.W.C.A. canteen requests more cars for food deliveries to patients. Executive Officer Coffey travels to Boston to discuss their plans for lifting closing orders. Coffey has promised to lift the ban as conditions permit. Worcester undertakers report reduced numbers of deaths.
October 17, 1918
It is believed that the Board of Health will lift closing orders on Monday (10/21). Physicians report that conditions at hospitals are improving steadily. There are 91 cases reported today.
October 18, 1918
Despite several public protests to the contrary, the Board of Health votes to lift closing orders on Tuesday (10/22) for churches, schools, theaters, saloons, dance halls, bowling alleys, and public halls. There is an urgent call for cars to carry nurses to patients’ homes. The numbers of patients admitted to Worcester hospitals continue to fall.
October 19, 1918
Superintendent of Schools Harvey S. Gruver orders night schools reopened in accordance with Board of Health orders. The Board of Health plans to place educational placards around the city. There are no new cases reported to the Board of Health today.
October 21, 1918
Worcester hospitals continue to report an improvement in influenza conditions. There are thirteen cases reported to the Board of Health today.
October 22, 1918
A large number of educational posters go up in industrial plants. Motion picture houses, theaters, bowling alleys, and dance halls reopen today.
October 23, 1918
The closing ban is lifted at midnight, after being in effect for three and a half weeks. All schools are reopened this morning. Worcester Boy Scouts are distributing educational posters in manufacturing plants and public places. Thirty-one cases are reported to the Board of Health today.
October 25, 1918
Conditions in Worcester hospitals continue to improve steadily. Despite rumors to the contrary, the influenza situation is showing great improvement.
November 6, 1918
The Newton and MacInnes homes on Harvard Street, which were temporarily used as homes for 50 influenza orphans, are closed today. The City’s charity agencies will take charge of the orphans.
November 21, 1918
According to Executive Officer Coffey slight increases in cases may occur through the winter, but there is no cause for alarm.
December 10, 1918
Clark College is closed for three weeks, and sick students are receiving care at City Hospital.
December 11, 1918
Holy Cross College orders a strict quarantine on campus. This is a protective measure in response to yesterday’s closing at Clark College. There are currently no influenza cases at Holy Cross College.
December 13, 1918
Executive Officer Coffey asks citizens to avoid crowds and observe general influenza precautions, such as cough etiquette.
December 18, 1918
There are fears that influenza is reemerging in the city. The Red Cross and the Registry for Nurses report a shortage of nurses. Sixty-nine cases of pneumonia and influenza are reported to the Board of Health.
December 21, 1918
Executive Officer Coffey once again asks citizens to observe influenza precautions.
December 26, 1918
The Worcester Red Cross issues a call for nurses.
December 30, 1918
The Red Cross issues another call for nurses. Belmont Hospital opens a second influenza ward due to an increase in cases.
December 31, 1918
Most new influenza cases are on the West side. According to the Board of Health the number of cases is unclear due to spotty reporting on the part of physicians.
January 3, 1919
Seventeen postal employees have influenza.
January 8, 1919
Twenty-two postal employees have influenza.
January 10, 1919
The police department and the fire department have been hit by influenza.
February 18, 1919
According to the Board of Health’s annual report, last year Worcester had its highest mortality rate ever with 3,760 deaths, or 20.05 per one thousand.