Saturday, March 28, 2020

SPECIAL REPORT: Real Estate Industry Reflects on Past National Epidemics

John Oharenko

As an example, just over a century near the end of World War I, Spanish influenza created havoc similar to today.  The epidemic spread, resulting in a global death toll of as many as 100 million people.  

 Yet Americans fared than other countries by acting quickly and aggressively, with Chicago serving as an excellent example of how to deal with this flu.

The flu arrived in Chicago by September 1918, killing over 8,000 people within two months. According to health records from September 21, 1918, to November 16, 1918, nearly 38,000 cases of influenza and 13,109 cases of pneumonia were reported – a relatively low death toll compared to other cities.   

Chicago took many precautions. For instance, the Commissioner of Health made influenza a reportable disease on September 16, and the Health Department printed placards to educate the public about the dangers of spitting, coughing and sneezing.  The Commissioner also urged people to stay home if they were sick. 

Chicago's additional efforts included limiting crowds by closing theaters, dance halls, skating rinks, and other venues, as well as prohibiting public funerals.  

Unlike today, schools remained open, as the Health Department decided children would be better off in school.  Teachers and nurses could monitor students and take preventative measures instead of staying at home unsupervised.  

On October 13, officials prohibited smoking on the street and elevated railroad cars, and this order remains in force until this day, long after the Spanish flu had passed. [i]

Shown below is a collection of 1918 and 2020 Chicago news clippings (Chicago Tribune), posters, and other information compare how many things have changed over the past century, yet remain the same in dealing with epidemics.

  The critical focus still rests on offering sanitary living conditions, practicing cleanliness, and maintaining appropriate distances.  And most important of all, staying home and safe to avoid spreading viruses.

# 1918 2020 Virus News Headlines Collage

# 1918 2020 Virus Chicago Public Alerts Collage

# 1918 2020 Virus Illinois Public Warnings Collage

# 1918 2020 Virus Advertisements Collage

Today, Chicagoans take the coronavirus very seriously, as the City's most prominent streets are nearly deserted during rush hour, as never seen before per the following photos.  Hopefully, these streets will return to "normal" very soon.

# Madison Street Coronavirus 03-25-20 Oharenko

# LaSalle Street Coronavirus 03-25-20 Oharenko

# North Michigan Avenue Coronavirus 03-25-20 Oharenko

# Theater District Coronavirus 03-25-20 Oharenko

In conclusion, America's "Yankee Ingenuity" and Chicago's "I Will" spirit both will prevail by conquering the COVID-19 virus and other future challenges.

[1] SarahD. "Chicago Fought to Limit Flu's Spread During 1918 Epidemic." Chicago Public Library. Accessed March 26, 2020.

The Real Estate Capital Institute® is a volunteer-based research organization that tracks realty rates data for debt and equity yields.  The Institute posts daily and historical benchmark rates, including treasuries, bank prime, and LIBOR.  

The   Real Estate Capital Institute®
Chicago, Illinois USA 60622
Contact: John Oharenko, Executive Director

[i] SarahD. “Chicago Fought to Limit Flu's Spread During 1918 Epidemic.” Chicago Public Library. Accessed March 26, 2020.

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