Social Distancing Like St. Louis In 1918, Only With Search

In 1918, St. Louis -- just 900 miles away from the epicenter of the Spanish flu in Philadelphia -- closed schools, playgrounds, libraries, courtrooms, and churches, all within two days of detecting its first cases. The city banned public gatherings of more than 20 people. Officials enforced companies to stagger work shifts, and riding the streetcar was limited.

Drastic measures kept the per capita flu-related deaths in St. Louis to less than half of those in Philadelphia, according to Michael Coren, a climate reporter at Quartz, who cites a 2007 paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A different story played out in Philadelphia after the city ignored warnings of influenza among soldiers preparing for World War I. About 200,000 people crammed together to watch the procession and support the march. Coren reports that three days later, Philadelphia’s 31 hospitals filled to capacity with sick and dying patients. In fact, thousands of people died.



“I want to be like St. Louis, said Janel Laravie, CEO at Chacka Marketing. “We need to go beyond thinking of ourselves and consider the potential impact we may have on others. This means anything that can be done to limit exposure should be done. We should not wait for symptoms to manifest.”

Fast forward to 2020 and Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China. In Hubei province, China’s government locked down nearly 60 million people and restricted travel, which may have been a little too late. When it spread to Italy, the county’s government banned public gatherings and closed borders.

Coronavirus eventually spread to the United States and on Wednesday evening the U.S. closed the White House to tours and President Trump called for Americans to social distance themselves from one another to slow or stop the spread. Once a virus can no longer be contained, the goal is to slow growth in infections.

It’s time to innovate. Unlike in 1918, the world offers businesses some amazing technology in ecommerce, search and video conferencing to get through the next few months. Use this opportunity to build new services and promote them via online advertising and faster delivery services.

Think back to September 11, 2001, when companies put travel restrictions in place and thought about implementing video conferences to bring brand clients and agencies reps together so they wouldn’t need to travel.

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