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2020 June/July
Pg 6 - The Sunshine Express
Health & Nurturing
Economic Reactions in 1957-58 and
in 1918-19
The CDC estimates that as of May 18 this year
approximately ninety thousand Americans have
died of COVID-19. (1/3 of them in New York)
Adjusted for population size, that comes out to a
mortality rate of 272 per million.
This is (so far) less than half the mortality rate
for the 1957-58 flu pandemic. In that pandemic,
it is estimated that as many as 116,000 Ameri-
cans died.
Yet, the US population was much smaller then,
totaling only 175 million. Adjusted for population
size, mortality as a result of the ¡®Asian flu¡¯ pan-
demic of 1957-58 was more than 660 per million.
That¡¯s the equivalent of 220,000 deaths in the
United States today.
Yet, Americans in 1957 did not respond by shut-
ting down commerce, forcing people into ¡°lock-
down¡±, or driving unemployment up to Depres-
sion-era levels.
In fact, reports show that Americans took little
action beyond the usual measures involved in
trying to slow the spread of disease: hand wash-
ing, staying home when ill, etc.
Although the virus does appear to have been a
factor in the 1958 recession, the economic ef-
fects were miniscule compared to what the US
now faces from the reaction to the COVID-19
The 1957¨C58 pandemic was such a rapidly
spreading disease that it became quickly appar-
ent to U.S. health ofcials that efforts to stop or
slow its spread were futile. Thus, no efforts were
made to quarantine individuals or groups, and
a deliberate decision was made not to cancel or
postpone large meetings such as conferences,
church gatherings, or athletic events for the
purpose of reducing transmission. No attempt
was made to limit travel or to otherwise screen
Emphasis was placed on providing medical care
to those who were afflicted and on sustaining
the continued functioning of community and
health services. There were no reports that
major events were canceled or postponed ex-
cept for high school and college football games,
which were often delayed because of the num-
ber of players afflicted.
In 1957-58, there was concern over the avail-
ability of medical services. But the emphasis
then was on increasing medical services rather
than state-enforced quarantines and ¡°social dis-
tancing¡± measures.
Nor did a vaccine offer an easy way out: Health
officers had hopes that signicant supplies of
vaccine might become available in due time, and
special efforts were made to speed the produc-
tion of vaccine, but the quantities that became
available were too late to affect the impact of
How History Shows Pandemic Lockdowns
Are Not Necessary
Published May 26, Written by Ryan McMaken:
Media pundits and politicians are now in the
habit of claiming it was the pandemic itself that
has caused unemployment to skyrocket and
economic growth to plummet.
The claim is that sick and dying workers, fearful
consumers and disrupted supply chains would
cause economic chaos.
Some have even claimed that economic shut-
downs actually help the economy, because it is
claimed allowing the spread of the disease will
itself destroy employment and economic growth.
Leaving aside the fact there¡¯s no evidence lock-
downs actually work, we can nonetheless look
to past pandemics - where coercive government
interventions were at most sporadic - and we
should see immense economic damage.
Specically, we can look to the the pandemic of
1957-58, which was more deadly than the CO-
VID-19 pandemic has been so far. We can also
look to the 1918-19 pandemic.
Yet, we will see that neither produced economic
damage on a scale we now see as a result of the
government mandated lockdowns.
This thoroughly undermines the claims that the
lockdowns are only a minor factor in economic
destruction and that the virus itself is the real
This suggests that most of the economic
damage now being experienced by work-
ers and households in the US is more
a product of the policy reaction to the
virus, than to the virus itself.
The pandemic of 1957-58 was a serious
and deadly problem for many.
As cases of the Asian flu began to
spread, it became clear to many scien-
tists and other observers that there was
something different and deadly about
this flu. Indeed, according to D.A. Hen-
derson, et al in ¡®Public Health and Medi-
cal Responses to the 1957-58 Influenza
Pandemic¡¯, ¡°Humans under 65 possessed
no immunity to this H2N2 strain.¡±
This meant that the ¡°highest attack rates
were in school-age children through
young adults up to 35 or 40 years of
Total deaths due to the flu over this pe-
riod range from 70,000 to 116,000.
This is cause for concern, to say the
least. With younger Americans, many
of them in prime working age, suscep-
tible to the disease, one could anticipate
signicant costs in terms of economic
growth and health.
What was the policy reaction to this?
Henderson et al. continue:
History Is Important
the epidemic.
Schools and workplaces were affected
by absent students and workers, but ab-
senteeism at schools was a larger factor,
with some schools even closed for short
periods as a result of so many missing
Absenteeism did not rise to the level
of causing shortages: Available data
on industrial absenteeism indicate that
the rates were low and that there was
no interruption of essential services or
The overall impact on GDP was negligible
and likely within the range of normal
economic variation.
Overall, the economy declined by ap-
proximately 2 percent during both the
rst and second quarter of 1958, but
this could not all be attributed to the ef-
fects of the virus.
Unemployment at the time also surged,
peaking at 7.5 percent during July 1958.
Economic growth was positive again,
however, by the fourth quarter of 1958
and had soared to over 9 percent growth
in 1959. Unemployment had fallen to 5
percent by June of 1959.
But the overall economic impact of the
virus itself was hardly disastrous. Hen-
derson, et al conclude:
Despite the large numbers of cases, the
1957 outbreak did not appear to have a
signicant impact on the U.S. economy.
For example, a Congressional Budget