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Looking Back to a Pandemic During a Pandemic

July 7, 2020

 Pandemic 2020

There has been nothing but bad news about the pandemic in Victoria this week. Melbourne is in lockdown. The border between NSW and Victoria is closed. High rise apartments are in lockdown. Victoria is experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, with the news of extra cases getting worse every day. This second wave is much worse than the first. We were only just starting to come out of the first wave, before the second wave hit. With restrictions slowly being lifted, it appears that some people were relaxing their social distancing, as they considered the virus to be over.

The Victorian government made the difficult decision to bring in the above lockdowns. There has been much discussion about whether it was the right thing to do. Some think the Government is responsible for the large number of people who are testing positive to the virus. They feel that restrictions were relaxed too early. There are so many different opinions. In central Victoria, where I live, there have been few cases of the virus, so we have not had to lock down again. We are still in self isolation, as we have been since the beginning. We have decided to live as though we were in a official lockdown area.

I’ve been keen to take a serious look at TROVES new website, which has been reformatted. What better way to get a feel for it than to research a ‘real’ topic. I decided to look for any reports of the pandemic in the early 20th century. The pandemics may be about 100 years apart, but I was surprised at the similarities. Very similar discussions, to those taking place today, were happening back then. New South Wales was concerned about the high numbers of cases in Victoria. The second article covers a council meeting that is deciding on what needs to be done to cope with the increasing number of cases.

Pandemic 1919

from: The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate, Monday, 17 Feb 1919, Page 4


THE PANDEMIC. While interstate disputes are to be deprecated, that which is now taking place between Victoria and New South Wales has been forced upon the latter State, and the plain and strong language in which Mr. Fuller, the Acting Premier, has worded his reply to the sister State, is justified by the circumstances. Victoria unquestionably failed to give effect to the essence of the agreement arrived at in December by the Medical Conference, and it may also be said that the Federal Government failed, in that it did not at first rise to the necessities of the case. To urge that it waited for official advice from Victoria is not a satisfactory reply. Conditions in Melbourne were matters of public property, and the Federal health authorities cannot have been ignorant of them. Now that difficulties occasioned by the clash of authorities are materially diminished, the matter is no longer as serious as at first. But there is still noticeable in Victoria a disinclination to follow New South Wales in taking all precautions. While the use of masks is a matter of controversy, there is the fact that the bulk of medical opinion supports it. And there is the fact that thus far the pandemic is being fairly held in Sydney, while in Melbourne the daily list of cases and of deaths is high. As evidence of the singular disinclination in Victoria to treat the disease as seriously as it should be may be cited the difference.

In the action of commercial firms in that State and in New South Wales. There has been an outcry from country districts in both States against the regular visits of metropolitan commercial travellers. It is purely a matter of precaution, and is accepted as such in this State, where the large firms indicate that their travellers will remain in the country. In Victoria, however, although the outbreak in Melbourne is far more serious than in Sydney, it is held that there is no reason for curtailing the activity of the travellers. This decision may or may not prove of consequence. But it is an exemplification of the difference in the attitude’ of the two States. The importance of the methods or lack of method followed in Victoria to fight the disease is that until the neighbouring State becomes clean again it can hardly be hoped that New South Wales will be freed from pneumonic influenza in its epidemic form. The precautions being taken in New South Wales are preventing its spread, and it may be hoped will continue to do so, but the chances of infection from Victoria must continue. Hence the fact that the epidemic is spreading to many parts of that State is a matter of concern to New South Wales as well as to other dominions. With the regrettable experiences of New Zealand before their eyes, New South Wales acted wisely and determinedly. Even assuming that in some instances its precautions might be deemed scarcely necessary, the error, if any, was on the right side. Victoria at first refused to take any steps, with the result of the present visitation of disease with its daily list of victims. There should be absolute interstate and Federal co-operation in the effort to stamp out the pandemic, and this ought still to be brought about.

from: The Cootamundra Herald, 29 April 1919, Page 3

A meeting of the above was held in the Assembly Room, Town Hall, on Friday night, and was attended by Messrs E. R. Laver, (President, in the chair), J. T. Stratton, E. Evans, C. H. Inson, Inspector Gamden, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Brennan, Dr. Florance, A. J. Chamen, G. Walekr, D. Doidge, and N. Gardner (Secretary.)

Before commencing the business of the meeting the Chairman welcomed back to the committee Mr A. J, Chamen, and congratulated him on looking so well after his operation. CORRESPONDENCE.
From the Department of Public Health; writing as follows: — As cases of pneumonic influenza have occurred in certain country districts, and as there is a possibility of the spread of infection to other districts, attention is again invited, to communications already forwarded by the Department. The Director General of public health considers if advisable to again urge the necessity for being prepared to meet the situation.
Hospital Accommodation.
Where public hospital accommodation exists, it is expected that the isolation blocks will be made available for any cases which occur, thereby preventing, as far as possible, the spread of infection. Should lie outbreak extend, further wards in the hospitals should be made available, as has been done in the Metropolitan area, or where the circumstances warrant it, the patients may be treated in their own homes by private medical practitioners. Immediate steps should be taken to see that further accommodation could’ be made available at short notice. In most instances, the public school buildings would be found suitable for this purpose, If, however, these buildings are not considered suitable; arrangements should be made so that other premises can be secured. In some country towns the Show ground buildings have been recommended by the doctors, as being entirely suitable for the purpose. This, however, is a matter for the consideration of the body which has undertaken control of the disease in the locality concerned. In the event of the school buildings being selected for the purpose, a request should be made to the Education Department to have it closed when the time arrives that its use for hospital purposes is considered necessary. The building should not be taken for a hospital, without first obtaining the approval of the Minister for Education. In places where hospitals do not exist, the above procedure should be followed in regard to the school buildings, etc., unless the locality is sufficiently close to a town with a public hospital, and to which patients could be removed without too much inconvenience to them. The use of tents for hospital accommodation is not recommended. In view of the possibility of boisterous or inclement weather, patients cannot be made as comfortable in a tent as in a building.
Ambulance Transport.
The Metropolitan Administrative Committee has already prepared a scheme for ambulance removaIs, which has been endorsed in this department. Improvised ambulances of the nature referred to will meet all requirements.
Medical and Nursing Assistance.
In view of the scarcity of doctors and nurses brought about by the war, and the extra demands in the city, it would be impossible for the Department to furnish assistance of this kind from the Metropolitan district, and the local body dealing with this matter should endeavor to arrange beforehand with all local persons who will undertake the duty. It is suggested that a list be prepared of persons who would be willing to offer their services. In the Metropolitan area there is only a limited number of certificated cures available, and nursing is being carried out by partially trained nurses, or others with nursing experience. In the larger towns the local controlling body is advised to divide the district into areas for administrative purposes, and to appoint an officer to take charge of such districts. This has been found to be the most effective method of dealing with the outbreak in the Metropolitan area.
Care of Children of Stricken Parents.
As previously advised, special arrangements should be made for the care of children whose parents have been stricken with the disease. No doubt in the smaller centres some persons will be found willing to undertake this duty.
Isolation of Contacts.
It is considered necessary to isolate all contacts for a period of 96 hours, so as to prevent spread of the disease as much as possible; in the larger centres s.o.s. signal cards would no doubt be found useful, but at smaller places it is not considered they would be of much practical value, as most of the cases occuring would be known to the authorities.
Red Cross Assistance.
The Red Cross Society has intimated its willingness to afford whatever assistance it can, and has already issued information as to what it is prepared to do in this way. The services of its members should be availed wherever practicable.
The Government will be prepared to pay all reasonable amounts expended by the local Administrative Committee dealing with the pandemic. Before incurring, expense particulars should be submitted, and authority, obtained, excepting in cases of urgency. In latter cases, authority to cover expense should be sought as early as practicable afterwards. It is requested that any future correspondence with respect to above-mentioned matters should be addressed to the Attorney General.
From the secretary of the Influenza Board, Sydney, wiling, as follows : “Your letter to hand. Board approves engagement of nurses for service at temporary hospital, at £4/4/- weekly, if fully qualified.”
A further letter from the Board stated that the rates of pay for fully qualified nurses would be £4/4/- per week; partialy trained nurses £3/3/ and nursing, assistants £2/2/-, with; sentenance in each case.
Letter received.
From the Board of Health, wiring as follows:- “Use of technical classroom, granted.”
From the Board of Health, wiring as follows : “William Quinn leaving Sydney to act as orderly at your hospital.”
From Board of Education (telegram): “Use of school as temporary hospital sanctioned.”
From the Country Influenza Administrative Committee (Sydney), complimenting the local Pandemic Committee on the effort put forward to combat the present pandemic.
From the Secretary of the Country Influenza Administrative Committee, sending the following wire :  “Board approve equipping temporary hospital; urge strictest economy. Consider £100 high.” The above telegram was sent in answer to one sent the Board by Mr Laver, which read as follows: “Two fresh cases from hotel. Several suspected cases. Will you authorise expenditure of £100 to furnish the emergency school hospital.”
Messrs Laver, Chamen, Inson, Mayor Stratton, and Drs Bren-nan, Florance, and Anderson were appointed a sub-committee to attend all details in connection with the equipping of a temporary hospital. Dr. Brennan moved, and Ald. Evans seconded, “that an endeavor be made to have the beds, chairs, enamelware and other furniture donated or loaned to the temporary hospital.”
The Mayor reported that the Municipal Council had alloted £100 to fight the epidemic.The matter had been left to him to deal with. If he considers that the Pandemic Committee was in need of money he would spend as much of that £100 as he thought fit. (Applause.)
Red Cross Assistance.
Mrs Brennan, of the local Red Cross Committee, reported as follows :  “On behalf of the Red Cross I wish to state that in the event of the Influenza epidemic spreading, we have the following, available for your committee : 50 sheets ; 70 pillow slips, 25 suite of pyiamas : 20 pneumionia vests ; 20 hospital shirts; overalls and caps for the ambulance men; masks; face washers, and old linen. Mr Kozminsky and Mrs Howell will loan a cow each in order to supply milk to the patients. The [???] for the school hospital were in readiness.”
The Chairman said that the Pandemic Committee, appreciated the excellent work and assistance of the ladies of the Red Cross. Ald. Evans moved, and Mr Inson seconded, that a letter be sent to the Red Cross, thanking them for their assistance.
The Mayor moved, “that the Board of Health be asked to appoint Mr Gamlen as their representative in Cootamundra during the epidemic.” The Mayor said that as far as quaranting the various places were concerned, the powers invested in the Act were not carried out in Cootamundra, due to Mr Gamlen not having the full powers to enforce the regulations.
Dr. Florance seconded the motion. It was a good move.
Dr. Brennan supported the motion. The more power Mr Gamlen had the better it would be for the town.
Aid. Evans said that as things were at present, the quarantine arrangements were a farce. There were contacts all over the place.
The motion was carried.
As regards the offer from Mrs. Howell and Mr Kozminsky, it was decided to thank both parties for their offer, and accepting same, the cows to be taken over when necessary arrangements were made.
The matter of restrictions on travellers was considered.
Dr. Brennan considered that the wearing of masks was not necessary in Cootamundra, in the open air. Masks were only necessary when one came in contact with a case. Dr. Brennan made several valuable suggestions as to the general administration of the school hospital. There should be a “head” of affairs, who need not necessarily come into contact with patients. The hospital should be cut up into three or four departments. Some one should be placed in charge in order that there would be no dashing, and that everything, was done in co-operation. The supplies for the hospital was a matter which, needed careful management and consideration.
Dr. Florance said that one thing was quite certain—the epidemic hospital must be a separate hospital altogether from the District Hospital. There must be no connection whatever between the two hospitals.
Dr. Brennan: What I want to make quite clear is this. A head of the nursing staff is required, and another in charge of the cookery department. If Nurse Jenkins was made Matron, to the nursing staff she could not go out to the Cookery department.
The chairman moved that Nurse Jenkins be appointed Sister in charge of the nursing staff at the emergency hospital.”
Seconded by Dr. Brennan, and carried.
The next matter was the appointment of an executive head— some lady capable of taking control of matters generally.
It was decided to ask Matron Dickson to take over the general supervision of the emergency hospital.
Ald. Evans moved, and Mr G. Walker seconded, “that the ladies of the local Red Cross be asked to organise the kitchen arrangements.”
Mr Gamlen urged the committee to do all they could to secure a motor car for use as a temporary ambulance.
Mr, Gamlen reported that Misses Carberry (2) has agreed ot go into any home and look after the children, when the parents are removed to the hospital with influenza. Miss Florance was to be asked to organise V.A.D’s. to give out-side assistance.

©2020 copyright. All rights reserved



THE PANDEMIC. (1919, February 17). Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from
PANDEMIC COMMITTEE (1919, April 29). Cootamundra Herald (NSW : 1877 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved July 7, 2020, from

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