Spanish Flu Called for Extreme Measures

Sonora Stories

Sonora, like so many communities in the Fall of 1918, did not escape the deadly effects of the Spanish Influenza that raged through the country. Each week, The Union Democrat listed those who were sick, had recovered or had died from the dreaded disease. The deadly cases would begin with the flu and quickly turn into pneumonia. There was no medical cure for the disease and the only way to possibly prevent it was to avoid contact with any other person. It attacked young and old alike as well as those in the prime of life.

Complying with the request, the City Council adopted emergency Ordinance Number 77 requiring the wearing of a mask covering over the nose and mouth, except when partaking of meals. The mask was to consist of at least four-ply material known as butter cloth or fine-mesh gauze fastening so that the mask or covering would firmly cover the nose and mouth. The mask was to be not less than five inches in width and seven inches in length. To show the seriousness of the situation, any person who violated this ordinance was guilty of a misdemeanor and could be punished by a fine of not less than $2.50 nor more than $10 or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding ten days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

The following Saturday, November 9th, the health board closed all the saloons in Sonora because “there exists in the City of Sonora an epidemic of Spanish Influenza, a contagious disease, and the presence of intoxicated men in the streets of Sonora and in the saloons and other public places, had become a menace to the public health and safety and we deem it advisable, as a health measure to pass such measures as will close the saloons of our city until the epidemic of Spanish Influenza will permit their being opened/ “Marshal Doyle executed the orders and Sonora was a dry town, so far as saloons were concerned.

Fortunately, the epidemic passed and the quarantine was lifted. The restrictions adopted by the health board were abolished and the people could now go to church, lodges, theaters, and yes, the saloons were open again!

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