The Mask Slackers of 1918

As the influenza pandemic swept across the United States in 1918 and 1919, masks took a role in political and cultural wars.

The masks were called muzzles, germ shields and dirt traps. They gave people a “pig-like snout.” Some people snipped holes in their masks to smoke cigars. Others fastened them to dogs in mockery. Bandits used them to rob banks.

More than a century ago, as the 1918 influenza pandemic raged in the United States, masks of gauze and cheesecloth became the facial front lines in the battle against the virus. But as they have now, the masks also stoked political division. Then, as now, medical authorities urged the wearing of masks to help slow the spread of disease. And then, as now, some people resisted.

In 1918 and 1919, as bars, saloons, restaurants, theaters and schools were closed, masks became a scapegoat, a symbol of government overreach, inspiring protests, petitions and defiant bare-face gatherings. All the while, thousands of Americans were dying in a deadly pandemic.

The first infections were identified in March, at an Army base in Kansas, where 100 soldiers were infected. Within a week, the number of flu cases grew fivefold, and soon the disease was taking hold across the country, prompting some cities to impose quarantines and mask orders to contain it.

By the fall of 1918, seven cities — San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Sacramento, Denver, Indianapolis and Pasadena, Calif. — had put in effect mandatory face mask laws, said Dr. Howard Markel, a historian of epidemics and the author of “Quarantine!

Organized resistance to mask wearing was not common, Dr. Markel said, but it was present. “There were flare-ups, there were scuffles and there were occasional groups, like the Anti-Mask League,” he said, “but that is the exception rather than the rule.”

At the forefront of the safety measures was San Francisco, where a man returning from a trip to Chicago apparently carried the virus home, according to archives about the pandemic at the University of Michigan.

By the end of October, there were more than 60,000 cases statewide, with 7,000 of them in San Francisco. It soon became known as the “masked city.”

“The Mask Ordinance,” signed by Mayor James Rolph on Oct. 22, made San Francisco the first American city to require face coverings, which had to be four layers thick.

Resisters complained about appearance, comfort and freedom, even after the flu killed an estimated 195,000 Americans in October alone.

Alma Whitaker, writing in The Los Angeles Times on Oct. 22, 1918, reviewed masks’ impact on society and celebrity, saying famous people shunned them because it was “so horrid” to go unrecognized.

“The big restaurants are the funniest sights, with all the waiters and diners masked, the latter just raising their screen to pop in a mouthful of food,” she wrote.

When Ms. Whitaker herself declined to wear one, she was “forcibly taken” to the Red Cross as a “slacker,” and ordered to make one and put it on.

The San Francisco Chronicle said the simplest type of mask was of folded gauze affixed with elastic or tape. The police went for gauze masks, which resembled an unflattering “nine ordinary slabs of ravioli arranged in a square.”

There was room for creativity. Some of the coverings were “fearsome looking machines” that lent a “pig-like aspect” to the wearer’s face.

The penalty for violators was $5 to $10, or 10 days’ imprisonment.

On Nov. 9, 1,000 people were arrested, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. City prisons swelled to standing room only; police shifts and court sessions were added to help manage.

“Where is your mask?” Judge Mathew Brady asked offenders at the Hall of Justice, where sessions dragged into night. Some gave fake names, said they just wanted to light a cigar or that they hated following laws.

Jail terms of 8 hours to 10 days were given out. Those who could not pay $5 were jailed for 48 hours.

On Oct. 28, a blacksmith named James Wisser stood on Powell and Market streets in front of a drugstore, urging a crowd to dispose of their masks, which he described as “bunk.”

A health inspector, Henry D. Miller, led him to the drugstore to buy a mask.

At the door, Mr. Wisser struck Mr. Miller with a sack of silver dollars and knocked him to the ground, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. While being “pummeled,” Mr. Miller, 62, fired four times with a revolver. Passers-by “scurried for cover,” The Associated Press said.

Mr. Wisser was injured, as were two bystanders. He was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting an officer and assault. The inspector was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

That was the headline for a report published in The Los Angeles Times when city officials met in November to decide whether to require residents to wear “germ scarers” or “flu-scarers.”

Public feedback was invited. Some supported masks so theaters, churches and schools could operate. Opponents said masks were “mere dirt and dust traps and do more harm than good.”

“I have seen some persons wearing their masks for a while hanging about their necks, and then apply them to their faces, forgetting that they might have picked up germs while dangling about their clothes,” Dr. E.W. Fleming said in a Los Angeles Times report.

An ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr. John J. Kyle, said: “I saw a woman in a restaurant today with a mask on. She was in ordinary street clothes, and every now and then she raised her hand to her face and fussed with the mask.”

Suffragists fighting for the right to vote made a gesture that rejected covering their mouths at a time when their voices were crucial.

At the annual convention of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, in October 1918, they set chairs four feet apart, closed doors to the public and limited attendance to 100 delegates, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported.

But the women “showed their scorn” for masks, it said. It’s unclear why.

Allison K. Lange, an associate history professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology, said one reason could have been that they wanted to keep a highly visible profile.

“Suffragists wanted to make sure their leaders were familiar political figures,” Dr. Lange said.

San Francisco’s mask ordinance expired after four weeks at noon on Nov. 21. The city celebrated, and church bells tolled.

A “delinquent” bent on blowing his nose tore his mask off so quickly that it “nearly ruptured his ear,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. He and others stomped on their masks in the street. As a police officer watched, it dawned on him that “his vigil over the masks was done.”

Waiters, barkeeps and others bared their faces. Drinks were on the house. Ice cream shops handed out treats. The sidewalks were strewn with gauze, the “relics of a torturous month,” The Chronicle said.

The spread had been halted. But a second wave was on the horizon.

By December, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors was again proposing a mask requirement, meeting with testy opposition.

Around the end of the year, a bomb was defused outside the office of San Francisco’s chief health officer, Dr. William C. Hassler. “Things were violent and aggressive, but it was because people were losing money,” said Brian Dolan, a medical historian at the University of California, San Francisco. “It wasn’t about a constitutional issue; it was a money issue.”

By the end of 1918, the death toll from influenza had reached at least 244,681, mostly in the last four months, according to government statistics.

In January, Pasadena’s city commission passed a mask ordinance. The police grudgingly enforced it, cracking down on cigar smokers and passengers in cars. Sixty people were arrested on the first day, The Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 22, in an article titled “Pasadena Snorts Under Masks.”

“It is the most unpopular law ever placed on the Pasadena records,” W.S. McIntyre, the chief of police, told the paper. “We are cursed from all sides.”

Some mocked the rule by stretching gauze across car vents or dog snouts. Cigar vendors said they lost customers, though enterprising aficionados cut a hole in the cloth. (They were still arrested.) Barbers lost shaving business. Merchants complained traffic dropped as more people stayed home.

Petitions were circulated at cigar stands. Arrests rose, even of the powerful. Ernest May, the president of Security National Bank of Pasadena, and five “prominent” guests were rounded up at the Maryland Hotel one Sunday.

They had masks on, but not covering their faces.

As the contagion moved into its second year, so did the skepticism.

On Dec. 17, 1918, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reinstituted the mask ordinance after deaths started to climb, a trend that spilled over into the new year with 1,800 flu cases and 101 deaths reported there in the first five days of January.

That board’s decision led to the creation of the Anti-Mask League, a sign that resistance to masks was resurfacing as cities tried to reimpose orders to wear them when infections returned.

The league was led by a woman, E.J. Harrington, a lawyer, social activist and political opponent of the mayor. About a half-dozen other women filled its top ranks. Eight men also joined, some of them representing unions, along with two members of the board of supervisors who had voted against masks.

“The masks turned into a political symbol,” Dr. Dolan said.

On Jan. 25, the league held its first organizational meeting, open to the public at the Dreamland Rink, where they united behind demands for the repeal of the mask ordinance and for the resignations of the mayor and health officials.

Their objections included lack of scientific evidence that masks worked and the idea that forcing people to wear the coverings was unconstitutional.

On Jan. 27, the league protested at a Board of Supervisors meeting, but the mayor held his ground. There were hisses and cries of “freedom and liberty,” Dr. Dolan wrote in his paper on the epidemic.

Repeal came a few days later on Feb. 1, when Mayor Rolph cited a downturn in infections.

But a third wave of flu rolled in late that year. The final death toll reached an estimated 675,000 nationwide, or 30 for every 1,000 people in San Francisco, making it one of the worst-hit cities in America.

Dr. Dolan said the story of the Anti-Mask League, which has drawn renewed interest now in 2020, demonstrates the disconnect between individual choice and universal compliance.

That sentiment echoes through the century from the voice of a San Francisco railway worker named Frank Cocciniglia.

Arrested on Kearny Street in January, Mr. Cocciniglia told the judge that he “was not disposed to do anything not in harmony with his feelings,” according to a Los Angeles Times report.

He was sentenced to five days in jail.

“That suits me,” Mr. Cocciniglia said as he left the stand. “I won’t have to wear a mask there.”

 

 

 

 

State of the Union: by Paul Field

Image may contain: text that says 'Whoever Paul Field is he hit the nail on the head. Field PM own opinion, but you post Everyone entitled silly "Welcome Socialism... You Socialism. the wealthiest, geographically advantaged, productive people. about This failure our, "Booming economy," modest challenges. tis the market dissonance stores, farmers/producers and crisis about corporations needing emergency bailout longest history ending interest with being unable equipped provide healthcare, time post profits. crisis response depending antiquated systems nobody remembers operate. But all, politicization the for the benefit of education, science, natural lifestyles, lifestyles, charity, compassion, virtually else for brief gain gutted our society.'

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America has to be ready for mail voting to avert an election crisis

https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/508928-america-has-to-be-ready-for-mail-voting-to-avert-an-election-crisis

States Should Embrace Vote by Mail and Early Voting To Protect ...

Valid concerns have been raised about mail voting. In New York, the local election boards have taken weeks to count primary ballots received in the mail as a result of the coronavirus, leaving several races for Congress still unresolved. The problems have been blamed on the late decision to send out the absentee ballot applications, outdated ballot counting machines, and the sheer number of mail ballots. The New York case raises a serious alarm with the 2020 election approaching and many states considering more reliance on mail voting in the midst of the pandemic.

Adding to this sense of urgency, President Trump has declared, without evidence, that mail voting is an open invitation to fraud and will be used unfairly against him this fall. He has tweeted that mail voting would make this the “most rigged” election in history. Setting aside the fact that states have relied on absentee and mail voting to hold secure elections for many years, the stumbles in New York and the irresponsible fear mongering by Trump raise the potential of a very real crisis come this fall.

Consider the national disruption surrounding the 2000 election, which was decided for George Bush after a recount in Florida, a month of legal battles, and a controversial split Supreme Court decision. After you add the factor of a second wave of coronavirus cases in the fall and a sitting president shouting “rigged!” to the rafters, and you can understand why some analysts worry that the period following the 2020 election may be one of the most disruptive contests in our modern history.

A crisis foretold, however, can be a crisis averted. Instead of wringing our hands over the recent problems with mail voting in New York, we have to learn from them and from the multiple states that have implemented mail voting systems without problems or fraud. Then states can make common sense preparations to ensure the process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible to prevent a potential election crisis in November.

The fact that election boards were overwhelmed by an influx of absentee ballots in New York must be the rallying cry for dedicating more resources to efficiently implement mail voting systems. Reducing funds available for mail voting initiatives, as some Trump supporters have advocated, in this era when many people have to rely on these ballots or literally risk death, will only serve to suppress voting, which may be the point.

Consider the case of Ohio for a glimpse of what a proactive mail voting initiative looks like. At the urging of Governor Mike DeWine, Republican and Democratic lawmakers unanimously approved their all mail voting primary that was successfully concluded in April. Governors and state legislatures across the country have to learn from Ohio, and additional federal funds have to be made available to assist the efforts.

All those claims that mail ballots are subject to rampant tampering is not evidence that they are, and it suggests the need to educate voters on the issue. Members of the Armed Forces have relied on absentee voting with mail ballots since the Civil War. Trump himself has voted absentee by mail. Meanwhile, three states allow ounties to conduct elections completely by mail if they choose, five other states conduct elections almost entirely by mail, and more than two dozen other states permit their residents to cast absentee ballots by mail without having to provide a reason.

Over 250 million votes have been cast using mailed ballots since 2000, according to the Vote at Home Institute, and yet exhaustive analysis has identified only a tiny fraction of cases of fraud. None of those states that hold their elections almost entirely by mail has seen voter fraud scandals. The bipartisan group Vote Safe, chaired by former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and former Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, notes that several studies have consistently proven that mail ballots are secure and do not advantage one political party over the other. The team rightly emphasizes that the goal of ensuring the safety of voters as they exercise their rights during a raging pandemic is not a partisan issue.

Whether we improve our voting systems or defund them, the use of mail ballots will inevitably be much greater in the 2020 election than in years past. We can prepare for this eventuality and find innovative ways to deal with the challenges that arise, or we can shift our gaze from another crisis foretold and suffer the major consequences come November.

Winston Churchill Quotes About Democracy. QuotesGram

Winston Churchill noted that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all other forms that have been tried. In the midst of a pandemic across the country that has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Americans, exercising our right to vote by mail instead of in person may also seem like the worst solution, except for all other options.

 

 

 

 

The Constitution doesn’t have a problem with mask mandates

https://theconversation.com/the-constitution-doesnt-have-a-problem-with-mask-mandates-142335?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20July%2022%202020%20-%201684316250&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20July%2022%202020%20-%201684316250+Version+A+CID_3a4842bdc1542ab5ad1725fad090f099&utm_source=campaign_monitor_us&utm_term=The%20Constitution%20doesnt%20have%20a%20problem%20with%20mask%20mandates

The Constitution doesn't have a problem with mask mandates

Many public health professionals and politicians are urging or requiring citizens to wear face masks to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Some Americans have refused, wrongly claiming mask decrees violate the Constitution. An internet search turns up dozens of examples.

“Costco Karen,” for instance, staged a sit-in in a Costco entrance in Hillsboro, Oregon after she refused to wear a mask, yelling “I am an American … I have rights.”

A group called Health Freedom Idaho organized a protest against a Boise, Idaho, mask mandate. One protester said, “I’m afraid where this country is headed if we just all roll over and abide by control that goes against our constitutional rights.”

As one protester said, “The coronavirus doesn’t override the Constitution.”

Speaking as a constitutional law scholar, these objections are nonsense.

The objections

It is not always clear why anti-maskers think government orders requiring face coverings in public spaces or those put in place by private businesses violate their constitutional rights, much less what they think those rights are. But most of the mistaken objections fall into two categories:

Mandatory masks violate the First Amendment right to speech, assembly, and especially association and mandatory masks violate a person’s constitutional right to liberty and to make decisions about how to their own health and bodily integrity.

They’re not mutually exclusive claims:lawsuit filed by four Florida residents against Palm Beach County, for example, argues that mask mandates “interfere with … personal liberty and constitutional rights,” such as freedom of speech, right to privacy, due process, and the “constitutionally protected right to enjoy and defend life and liberty.” The lawsuit asks the court to issue a permanent injunction against the county’s mask mandate.

Responding to a reporter who asked why President Donald Trump appeared unconcerned about the absence of masks and social distancing at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Vice President Mike Pence said: “I want to remind you again freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble is in the Constitution of the U.S. Even in a health crisis, the American people don’t forfeit our constitutional rights.”

What the First Amendment does – and doesn’t – do

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, press, petition, assembly and religion.

There are two reasons why mask mandates don’t violate the First Amendment.

First, a mask doesn’t keep you from expressing yourself. At most, it limits where and how you can speak. Constitutional law scholars and judges call these “time, place, and manner” restrictions. If they do not discriminate on the basis of the content of the speech, such restrictions do not violate the First Amendment. An example of a valid time, place and manner restriction would be a law that limits political campaigning within a certain distance of a voting booth.

Additionally, the First Amendment, like all liberties ensured by the Constitution, is not absolute.

All constitutional rights are subject to the goverment’s authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community. This authority is called the “police power.” The Supreme Court has long held that protecting public health is sufficient reason to institute measures that might otherwise violate the First Amendment or other provisions in the Bill of Rights. In 1944, in the case of Prince v. Massachusetts, for example, the Supreme Court upheld a law that prohibited parents from using their children to distribute religious pamphlets on public streets.

The right to liberty

Some anti-maskers object that masks violate the right to liberty.

The right to liberty, including the right to make choices about one’s health and body, is essentially a constitutional principle of individual autonomy, neatly summarized as “My body, my choice.”

The 1905 case of Jacobsen v. Massachusetts shows why mask mandates don’t violate any constitutional right to privacy or health or bodily integrity. In that case, the Supreme Court upheld a smallpox vaccination requirement in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The court said that the vaccination requirement did not violate Jacobsen’s right to liberty or “the inherent right of every freeman to care for his own body and health in such way as to him seems best.”

As the court wrote, “There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members.” In a 1995 New York case, a state court held that an individual with active tuberculosis could be forcibly detained in a hospital for appropriate medical treatment.

Even if you assume that mask mandates infringe upon what the Supreme Court calls “fundamental rights,” or rights that the court has called the “very essence of a scheme of ordered liberty,” it has consistently ruled states can act if the restrictions advance a compelling state interest and do so in the least restrictive manner.

Rights are conditional

As the Jacobsen ruling and the doctrine of time, place and manner make clear, the protection of all constitutional liberties rides upon certain necessary – but rarely examined – assumptions about communal and public life.

One is that is constitutional rights – whether to liberty, speech, assembly, freedom of movement or autonomy – are held on several conditions. The most basic and important of these conditions is that our exercise of rights must not endanger others (and in so doing violate their rights) or the public welfare. This is simply another version of the police power doctrine.

Unfortunately, a global pandemic in which a serious and deadly communicable disease can be transmitted by asymptomatic carriers upsets that background and justifies a wide range of reasonable restrictions on our liberties. Believing otherwise makes the Constitution a suicide pact – and not just metaphorically.

 

 

 

 

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