Letter to the Editor: To beat a pandemic, be generous but firm

A man wearing a mask to combat the 1918 flu pandemic. The skull and crossbones on the mask was a joke, not part of the mask as issued. Photo courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales.

Editor’s note: The following letter, from Health Officer William H. Chase, was published by The Cordova Daily Times on Jan. 25, 1919, during the Spanish flu pandemic.


Since the epidemic of influenza reached Cordova, there has arisen more or less controversy relative to the quarantine regulations in force. Individual and public criticism when of a meritorious character, has not only been welcomed and encouraged but highly appreciated. But, on the other hand when criticism has been unjust and malicious it has encouraged and brought about contempt for such rules and orders as have been promulgated. My personal knowledge leads me to believe that every citizen, both private and public, who has taken an interest in this most serious problem, with which the city has been confronted has done his duty in a sincere and conscientious manner.

Others, even including prominent businessmen are inclined to take the matter of protective regulations, as a huge joke, and openly scoff at the efforts of those whose duty it is to protect the community against epidemics of this nature.

Would it not be far more beneficial to our private and business interest, if the entire community would solidly unite and cooperate with the public officials, in their efforts to protect the Copper River and interior communities as well as our own community?

The health officers cannot possibly be at all places at all times and it is as much the citizens’ duty as the officers’ to notify those who may not be informed, that they are breaking a law. Those who wantonly and maliciously ignore the quarantine regulations should be reported and prosecuted.

Man comes into this world naked and alone, and how long could he survive, were it not for the protection with which the laws and regulations of the community, state and national government surround him?

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Be generous. Overlook little faults. Give advice where it is needed and appreciated. Likewise, be firm in the enforcement of laws for the protection of your comrades.

The skill and valor of the strong will develop the strength of the weak and bring about a harmony which will be conductive to all that is good and commendable in the neighborhood of mankind.

Cordova is fast approaching an era of prosperity. The sun will soon absorb the mists of darkness and let your face and heart radiate the brightness and warmth with which nature is about to endow our little community.

Come — let’s get together, and do things.

W. H. Chase
Health Officer

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