During the 1918 Pandemic, ‘Mask Slackers’ Were Labeled as Unpatriotic


Many of the methods used by Americans in 1918 to try to prevent the spread of the flu are similar to what people began to do during the COVID-19 pandemic: closing schools. Wear masks. Do not cough or sneeze into someone’s face. Avoid big events and keep them outside when possible. And no sputum.

City and health officials have made these guidelines known in a variety of ways. In Philadelphia, street signs warned “Spit Spreads Death”. Authorities in New York have enforced spitting orders and encouraged residents to cough or sneeze into tissues (a practice that spread after the pandemic). The city’s health service even advised people not to kiss “except with a handkerchief,” and reports have spread the message across the country.