Essay #3: Pandemic
The purpose of this second major essay is to synthesize information and narrative about two different pandemics, one hundred years apart, into one analysis of what these two pandemics have in common.
To do this, you will use the following:
Katherine Anne Porter’s “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”
One source on the 1918 influenza pandemic(choose one):
Fiona Lowenstein’s article, “My coronavirus survivor group is my most important medical support right now ”
Joe Pinsker’s “How the Pandemic Has Changed Us Already” .
David Tarrant’s “Lessons from the past: How the deadly second wave of the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ caught Dallas and the U.S. by surprise” .
One reliable source (TRAAP tested (Links to an external site.)) on the current COVID-19 pandemic or the 1918 Influenza pandemic, which includes one source you have found on your own.
The structure of your paper should follow standard, rhetorical formula. In other words, you need an introduction which includes the thesis of your paper (in complex sentence form, your thesis will state the specific conclusion you reached about the similarities in the stories from these two pandemics), the body of your paper which supports your thesis (and which contains quotes from the story as well as other sources for support), and a conclusion to wrap up your ideas.
Specific criteria of this paper:
A clear, cogent thesis and well-developed body paragraphs that support that thesis
Paper should be typed in APA format with a References page
This paper should be about four pages in length
Your paper should include well-selected quotes from the sources you reference.
On your References page, there must at least three entries:
One article we read for class
One source found from independent research
Pale Horse, Pale Rider
By Katherine Anne Porter
In sleep she knew she was in her bed, but not the bed
she had lain down in a few hours since, and the room
was not the same but it was a room she had known
somewhere. Her heart was a stone lying upon her breast
outside of her; her pulses lagged and paused, and she
knew that something strange was going to happen, even
as the early morning winds were cool through the lat-
tice, the streaks of light were dark blue and the whole
house was snoring in its sleep.
Now I must get up and go while they are all quiet.
Where are my things? Things have a will of their own
in this place and hide where they like. Daylight will
strike a sudden blow on the roof startling them all up
to their feet; faces will beam asking. Where are you
going. What are you doing. What are you thinking.
How do you feel. Why do you say such things. What
do you mean? No more sleep. Where are my boots and
what horse shall I ride? Fiddler or Graylie or Miss Lucy
with the long nose and the wicked eye? How I have
loved this house in the morning before we are all awake
and tangled together like badly cast fishing lines. Too
many people have been born here, and have wept too
much here, and have laughed too much, and have been
too angry and outrageous with each other here. Too
many have died in this bed already, there are far too
many ancestral bones propped up on the mantelpieces,
there have been too damned many antimacassars in this
house, she said loudly, and oh, what accumulation of
storied dust never allowed to settle in peace for one
And the stranger? Where is that lank greenish stran-
ger I remember hanging about the place, welcomed by
my grandfather, my great-aunt, my five times removed
cousin, my decrepit hound and my silver kitten? Why
did they take to him, I wonder? And where are they
now? Yet I saw him pass the window in the evening.
What else besides them did I have in the world? Noth-
ing. Nothing is mine, I have only nothing but it is
enough, it is beautiful and it is all mine. Do I even walk
about in my own skin or is it something I have borrowed
to spare my modesty? Now what horse shall I borrow
for this journey I do not mean to take, Graylie or Miss
Lucy or Fiddler who can jump ditches in the dark and
knows how to get the bit between his teeth? Early
morning is best for me because trees are trees in one
stroke, stones are stones set in shades known to be grass,
there are no false shapes or surmises, the road is still
asleep with the crust of dew unbroken. I’ll take Graylie
because he is not afraid of bridges.
Come now, Graylie, she said, taking his bridle, we
must outrun Death and the Devil. You are no good for
it, she told the other horses standing saddled before the
stable gate, among them the horse of the stranger, gray
also, with tarnished nose and ears. The stranger swung
into his saddle beside her, leaned far towards her and
regarded her without meaning, the blank still stare of
mindless malice that makes no threats and can bide its
time. She drew Graylie around sharply, urged him to
run. He leaped the low rose hedge and the narrow ditch
beyond, and the dust of the lane flew heavily under his
beating hoofs. The stranger rode beside her, easily,
lightly, his reins loose in his half-closed hand, straight
and elegant in dark shabby garments that flapped upon
his bones; his pale face smiled in an evil trance, he did
not glance at her. Ah, I have seen this fellow before, I
know this man if I could place him. He is no stranger
She pulled Graylie up, rose in her stirrups and
shouted, I’m not going with you this time— ride on!
Without pausing or turning his head the stranger rode
on. Gray lie’s ribs heaved under her, her own ribs rose
and fell. Oh, why am I so tired, I must wake up. “But
let me get a fine yawn first,” she said, opening her eyes
and stretching, “a slap of cold water in my face, for
I’ve been talking in my sleep again, I heard myself but
what was I saying?”
Slowly, unwillingly, Miranda drew herself up inch
by inch out of the pit of sleep, waited in a daze for life
to begin again. A single word struck in her mind, a gong
of warning, reminding her for the day long what she
forgot happily in sleep, and only in sleep. The war, said
the gong, and she shook her head. Dangling her feet
idly with their slippers hanging, she was reminded of
the way all sorts of persons sat upon her desk at the
newspaper office. Every day she found someone there,
sitting upon her desk instead of the chair provided, dan-
gling his legs, eyes roving, full of his important affairs,
waiting to pounce about something or other. ^‘‘Why
won’t they sit in the chair? Should I put a sign on it,
saying, ‘For God’s sake, sit here’?”
Far from putting up a sign, she did not even frown at
her visitors. Usually she did not notice them at all until
their determination to be seen was greater than her de-
termination not to see them. Saturday, she thought, lying
comfortably in her tub of hot water, will be pay day,
as always. Or I hope always. Her thoughts roved hazily
in a continual effort to bring together and unite firmly
the disturbing oppositions in her day-to-day existence,
where survival, she could see clearly, had become a series
of feats of sleight of hand. I owe— let me see, I wish I
had pencil and paper— well, suppose I did pay five dol-
lars now on a Liberty Bond, I couldn’t possibly keep it
up. Or maybe. Eighteen dollars a week. So much for
rent, so much for food, and I mean to have a few things
besides. About five dollars’ worth. Will leave me
twenty-seven cents. I suppose I can make it. I suppose
I should be worried. I am worried. Very well, now I
am worried and what next? Twenty-seven cents. That’s
not so bad. Pure profit, really. Imagine if they should
suddenly raise me to twenty I should then have two
dollars and twenty-seven cents left over. But they aren’t
going to raise me to twenty. They are in fact going to
throw me out if I don’t buy a Liberty Bond. I hardly
believe that. I’ll ask Bill. (Bill was the city editor.) 1
wonder if a threat like that isn’t a kind of blackmail. I
don’t believe even a Lusk Committeeman can get away
Yesterday there had been two pairs of legs dangling,
on either side of her typewriter, both pairs stuffed
thickly info funnels of dark expensive-looking material.
She noticed at a distance that one of them was oldish
and one was youngish, and they both of them had a
stale air of borrowed importance which apparently they
had got from the same source. They were both much
too well nourished and the younger one wore a square
little mustache. Being what they were, no matter what
their business was it would be something unpleasant.
Miranda had nodded at them, pulled out her chair and
without removing her cap or gloves had reached into a
pile of letters and sheets from the copy desk as if she
had not a moment to spare. They did not move, or take
off their hats. At last she had said “Good morning” to
them, and asked if they were, perhaps, waiting for her?
The two men slid off the desk, leaving some of her
papers rumpled, and the oldish man had inquired why
she had not bought a Liberty Bond. Miranda had looked
at him then, and got a poor impression. He was a pursy-
faced man, gross-mouthed, with little lightless eyes, and
Miranda wondered why nearly all of those selected to
do the war work at home were of his sort. He might be
anything at all, she thought; advance agent for a road
show, promoter of a wildcat oil company, a former
saloon keeper announcing the opening of a new cabaret,
an automobile salesman— any follower of any one of the
crafty, haphazard callings. But he was now all Patriot,
working for the government. “Look here,” he asked her,
“do you know there’s a war, or don’t you?”
Did he expect an answer to that? Be quiet, Miranda
told herself, this was bound to happen. Sooner or later
it happens. Keep your head. The man wagged his finger
at her, “Do you?” he persisted, as if he were prompting
an obstinate child.
“Oh, the war,” Miranda had echoed on a rising note
and she almost smiled at him. It was habitual, automatic,
to give that solemn, mystically uplifted grin when you
spoke the words or heard them spoken. “Cest la lerre,”
whether you could pronounce it or not, was even better,
and always, always, you shrugged.
“Yeah,” said the younger man in a nasty way, “the
war.” Miranda, startled by the tone, met his eye; his
stare was really stony, really viciously cold, the kind of
thing you might expect to meet behind a pistol on a
deserted corner. This expression gave temporary mean-
ing to a set of features otherwise nondescript, the face
of those men who have no business of their own. “We’re
having a war, and some people are buying Liberty Bonds
and others just don’t seem to get around to it,” he said.
“That’s what we mean.”
Miranda frowned with nervousness, the sharp begin-
nings of fear. “Are you selling them?” she asked, tak-
ing the cover off her typewriter and putting it back
“No, we’re not selling them,” said the older man.
“We’re just asking you why you haven’t bought one.”
The voice was persuasive and ominous.
Miranda began to explain that she had no money, and
did not know where to find any, when the older man
interrupted: “That’s no excuse, no excuse at all, and
you know it, with the Huns overrunning martyred Bel-
“With our American boys fighting and dying in Bel-
leau Wood,” said the younger man, “anybody can raise
fifty dollars to help beat the Boche.”
Miranda said hastily, “I have eighteen dollars a week
and not another cent in the world. I simply cannot buy
“You can pay for it five dollars a week,” said the older
man (they had stood there cawing back and forth over
her head), “like a lot of other people in this office, and
a lot of other offices besides are doing.”
Miranda, desperately silent, had thought, “Suppose I
were not a coward, but said what I really thought? Sup-
pose I said to hell with this filthy war? Suppose I asked
that little thug. What’s the matter with you, why aren’t
you rotting in Belleau Wood? I wish you were . .
She began to arrange her letters and notes, her fingers
refusing to pick up things properly. The older man
went on making his little set speech. It was hard, of
course. Everybody was suffering, naturally. Everybody
had to do his share. But as to that, a Liberty Bond was
the safest investment you could make. It was just like
having the money in the bank. Of course. The govern-
ment was back of it and where better could you invest?
“I agree with you about that,” said Miranda, “but I
haven’t any money to invest.”
And of course, the man had gone on, it wasn’t so
much her fifty dollars that was going to make any dif-
ference. It was just a pledge of good faith on her part.
A pledge of good faith that she was a loyal American
doing her duty. And the thing was safe as a church.
Why, if he had a million dollars he’d be glad to put
every last cent of it in these Bonds. . . . “You can’t
lose by it,” he said, almost benevolently, “and you can
lose a lot if you don’t. Think it over. You’re the only
one in this whole newspaper office that hasn’t come in.
And every firm in this city has come in one hundred per
cent. Over at the Daily Clarion nobody had to be asked
“They pay better over there,” said Miranda. “But
next week, if I can. Not now, next week.”
“See that you do,” said the younger man. “This ain’t
any laughing matter.”
They lolled away, past the Society Editor’s desk, past
Bill the City Editor’s desk, past the long copy desk
where old man Gibbons sat all night shouting at inter-
vals, “Jarge! Jarge!” and the copy boy would come fly-
ing. “Never say people when you mean persons,” old
man Gibbons had instructed Miranda, “and never say
practically, say virtually, and don’t for God’s sake ever
so long as I am at this desk use the barbarism in as much
under any circumstances whatsoever. Now you’re edu-
cated, you may go.” At the head of the stairs her in-
quisitors had stopped in their fussy pride and vainglory,
lighting cigars and wedging their hats more firmly over
Miranda turned over in the soothing water, and
wished she might fall asleep there, to wake up only when
it was time to sleep again. She had a burning slow head-
ache, and noticed it now, remembering she had waked
up with it and it had in fact begun the evening before.
While she dressed she tried to trace the insidious career
of her headache, and it seemed reasonable to suppose it
had started with the war. “It’s been a headache, all right,
but not quite like this.” After the Committeemen had
left, yesterday, she had gone to the cloakroom and had
found Mary Townsend, the Society Editor, quietly hys-
terical about something. She was perched on the edge
of the shabby wicker couch with ridges down the cen-
ter, knitting on something rose-colored. Now and then
she would put down her knitting, seize her head with
inquiring voice. Her column was called Ye Towne
Gossyp, so of course everybody called her Towney.
Miranda and Towney had a great deal in common, and
liked each other. They had both been real reporters
once, and had been sent together to “cover” a scan-
dalous elopement, in which no marriage had taken place,
after all, and the recaptured girl, her face swollen, had
sat with her mother, who was moaning steadily under a
mound of blankets. They had both wept painfully and
implored the young reporters to suppress the worst of
the story. They had suppressed it, and the rival news-
paper printed it all the next day. Miranda and Towney
had then taken their punishment together, and had been
degraded publicly to routine female jobs, one to the
theaters, the other to society. They had this in common,
that neither of them could see what else they could pos-
sibly have done, and they knew they were considered
fools by the rest of the staff— nice girls, but fools. At
sight of Miranda, Towney had broken out in a rage,
“1 can’t do it. I’ll never be able to raise the money, I
told them, I can’t, I can’t, but they wouldn’t listen.”
Miranda said, “I knew I wasn’t the only person in this
office who couldn’t raise five dollars. I told them I
couldn’t, too, and I can’t.”
“Ay God,” said Towney, in the same voice, “they
told me I’d lose my job—”
“I’m going to ask Bill,” Miranda said; “I don’t believe
Bill would do that.”
“It’s not up to Bill,” said Towney. “He’d have to if
they got after him. Do you suppose they could put us in
“I don’t know,” said Miranda. “If they do, we won’t
be lonesome.” She sat down beside Towney and held her
own head. “What kind of soldier are you knitting that
for? It’s a sprightly color, it ought to cheer him up.”
“’ like hell,” said Towney, her needles going again.
“I’m naking this for myself. That’s that.”
“Well,” said Miranda, “we won’t be lonesome and
we’ll catch up on our sleep.” She washed her face and
put on fresh make-up. Taking clean gray gloves out of
her pocket she went out to Join a group of young
women fresh from the country club dances, the morn-
ing bridge, the charity bazaar, the Red Cross work-
rooms, who were wallowing in good works. They gave
tea dances and raised money, and with the money they
bought quantities of sweets, fruit, cigarettes, and maga-
zines for the men in the cantonment hospitals. With this
loot they were now setting out, a gay procession of
high-powered cars and brightly tinted faces to cheer
the brave boys who already, you might very well say,
had fallen in defense of their country. It must be fright-
fully hard on them, the dears, to be floored like this
when they’re all crazy to get overseas and into the
trenches as quickly as possible. Yes, and some of them
are the cutest things you ever saw, I didn’t know there
were so many good-looking men in this country, good
heavens, I said, where do they come from? Well, my
dear, you may ask yourself that question, who knows
where they did come from? You’re quite right, the way
I feel about it is this, we must do everything we can to
make them contented, but I draw the line at talking to
them. I told the chaperons at those dances for enlisted
men. I’ll dance with them, every dumbbell who asks me,
but I will NOT talk to them, I said, even if there is a war.
So I danced hundreds of miles without opening my
mouth except to say. Please keep your knees to yourself.
I’m glad we gave those dances up. Yes, and the men
stopped coming, anyway. But listen. I’ve heard that a
great many of the enlisted men come from very good
families; I’m not good at catching names, and those I did
catch I’d never heard before, so I don’t know . . . but it
seems to me if they were from good families, you’d know
it, wouldn’t you? I mean, if a man is well bred he doesn’t
step on your feet, does he? At least not that. I used to
have a pair of sandals ruined at every one of those
dances. Well, I think any kind of social life is in very
poor taste just now, I think we should all put on our
Red Cross head dresses and wear them for the duration
of the war—
Miranda, carrying her basket and her flowers, moved
in among the young women, who scattered out and
rushed upon the ward uttering girlish laughter meant to
be refreshingly gay, but there was a grim determined
clang in it calculated to freeze the blood. Miserably em-
barrassed at the idiocy of her errand, she walked rapidly
between the long rows of high beds, set foot to foot
with a narrow aisle between. The men, a selected pre-
sentable lot, sheets drawn up to their chins, not seriously
ill, were bored and restless, most of them willing to be
amused at anything. They were for the most part pic-
turesquely bandaged as to arm or head, and those who
were not visibly wounded invariably replied “Rheuma-
tism” if some tactless girl, who had been solemnly
warned never to ask this question, still forgot and asked
a man what his illness was. The good-natured, eager
ones, laughing and calling out from their hard narrow
beds, were soon surrounded. Miranda, with her wilting
bouquet and her basket of sweets and cigarettes, looking
about, caught the unfriendly bitter eye of a young fel-
low lying on his back, his right leg in a cast and pulley.
She stopped at the foot of his bed and continued to look
at him, and he looked back with an unchanged, hostile
face. Not having any, thank you and be damned to the
whole business, his eyes said plainly to her, and will you
be so good as to take your trash off my bed? For
Miranda had set it down, leaning over to place it where
he might be able to reach it if he would. Having set it
down, she was incapable of taking it up again, but hur-
ried away, her face burning, down the long aisle and
out into the cool October sunshine, where the dreary
raw barracks swarmed and worked with an aimless life
of scurrying, dun-colored insects; and going around to a
window near where he lay, she looked in, spying upon
her soldier. He was lying with his eyes closed, his eye-
brows in a sad bitter frown. She could not place him
at all, she could not imagine where he came from nor
what sort of being he might have been “in life,” she said
to herself. His face was young and the features sharp
and plain, the hands were not laborer’s hands but not
well-cared-for hands either. They were good useful
properly shaped hands, lying there on the coverlet. It
occurred to her that it would be her luck to find him,
instead of a jolly hungry puppy glad of a bite to eat and
a little chatter. It is like turning a corner absorbed in
your painful thoughts and meeting your state of mind
embodied, face to face, she said. “My own feelings about
this whole thing, made flesh. Never again will I come
here, this is no sort of thing to be doing. This is disgust-
ing,” she told herself plainly. “Of course I would pick
him out,” she thought, getting into the back seat of the
car she came in, “serves me right, I know better.”
Another girl came out looking very tired and climbed
in beside her. After a short silence, the girl said in a puz-
zled way, “I don’t know what good it does, really. Some
of them wouldn’t take anything at all. I don’t like this,
“I hate it,” said .Miranda.
“I suppose it’s all right, though,” said the girl, cau-
“Perhaps,” said .Miranda, turning cautious also.
That was for yesterday. At this point Miranda de-
cided there was no good in thinking of yesterday, except
for the hour after midnight she had spent dancing with
Adam. He was in her mind so much, she hardly knew
when she was thinking about him directly. His image
was simply always present in more or less degree, he was
sometimes nearer the surface of her thoughts, the pleas-
antest, the only really pleasant thought she had. She ex-
amined her face in the mirror between the windows and
decided that her uneasiness was not all imagination. For
three days at least she had felt odd and her expression
was unfamiliar. She would have to raise that fifty dollars
somehow, she supposed, or who knows what can hap-
pen? She was hardened to stories of personal disaster, of
outrageous accusations and extraordinarily bitter penal-
ties that had grown monstrously out of incidents very
little more important than her failure— her refusal— to buy
a bond. No, she did not find herself a pleasing sight,
flushed and shiny, and even her hair felt as if it had de-
cided to grow in the other direction. I must do some-
thing about this, I can’t let Adam see me like this, she
told herself, knowing that even now at that moment he
was listening for the turn of her doorknob, and he
would be in the hallway, or on the porch when she came
out, as if by sheerest coincidence. The noon sunlight
cast cold slanting shadows in the room where, she said, I
suppose I live, and this day is beginning badly, but they
all do now, for one reason or another. In a drowse, she
sprayed perfume on her hair, put on her moleskin cap
and jacket, now in their second winter, but still good,
still nice to wear, again being glad she had paid a fright-
ening price for them. She had enjoyed them all this time,
and in no case would she have had the money now.
Maybe she could manage for that Bond. She could not
find the lock without leaning to search for it, then stood
undecided a moment possessed by the notion that she
had forgotten something she would miss seriously
Adam was in the hallway, a step outside his own door;
he swung about as if quite startled to see her, and said.
“Hello. I don’t have to go back to camp today after all—
isn’t that luck?”
Miranda smiled at him gaily because she was always
delighted at the sight of him. He was wearing his new
uniform, and he was all olive and tan and tawny, hay
colored and sand colored from hair to boots. She half
noticed again that he always began by smiling at her;
that his smile faded gradually; that his eyes became fixed
and thoughtful as if he were reading in a poor light.
They walked out together into the fine fall day, scuf-
fling bright ragged leaves under their feet, turning their
faces up to a generous sky really blue and spotless. At
the first comer they waited for a funeral to pass, the
mourners seated straight and firm as if proud in their
“I imagine I’m late,” said Miranda, “as usual. What
time is it?”
“Nearly half past one,” he said, slipping back his
sleeve with an exaggerated thrust of his ami upward.
The young soldiers were still self-conscious about their
wrist watches. Such of them as Miranda knew were boys
from southern and southwestern towns, far off the At-
lantic seaboard, and they had always believed that only
sissies wore wrist watches. “I’ll slap you on the wrist
watch,” one vaudeville comedian would simper to an-
other, and it was always a good joke, never stale.
“I think it’s a most sensible way to carry a watch, ’
said Miranda. “You needn’t blush,”
“I’m nearly used to it,” said Adam, who was from
Texas, “We’ve been told time and again how all the he-
manly regular army men wear them. It’s the horrors of
war,” he said; “are we downhearted? I’ll say we are.”
It was the kind of patter going the rounds. “You look
it,” said Miranda.
He was tall and heavily muscled in the shoulders, nar-
row in the waist and flanks, and he was infinitely but-
toned, strapped, harnessed into a uniform as tough and
unyielding in cut as a strait jacket, though the cloth was
fine and supple. He had his uniforms made by the best
tailor he could find, he confided to Miranda one day
when she told him how squish he was looking in his new
soldier suit. “Hard enough to make anything of the out-
fit, anyhow,” he told her. “It’s the least I can do for my
beloved country, not to go around looking like a tramp.”
He was twenty-four years old and a Second Lieutenant
in an Engineers Corps, on leave because his outfit ex-
pected to be sent over shortly. “Came in to make my
will,” he told Miranda, “and get a supply of toothbrushes
and razor blades. By what gorgeous luck do you sup-
pose,” he asked her, “I happened to pick on your room-
ing house? How did I know you were there? ”
Strolling, keeping step, his stout polished well-made
boots setting themselves down firmly beside her thin-
soled black suede, they put off as long as they could the
end of their moment together, and kept up as well as
they could their small talk that flew back and forth over
little grooves worn in the thin upper surface of the
brain, things you could say and hear clink reassuringly
at once without disturbing the radiance which played
and darted about the simple and lovely miracle of being
two persons named Adam and Miranda, twenty-four
years old each, alive and on the earth at the same mo-
ment: “Are you in the mood for dancing, Miranda?”
and “I’m always in the mood for dancing, Adam!” but
there were things in the way, the day that ended with
dancing was a long way to go.
He really did look, Miranda thought, like a fine
healthy apple this morning. One time or another in their
talking, he had boasted that he had never had a pain in
his life that he could remember. Instead of being hor-
rified at this monster, she approved his monstrous unique-
ness. As for herself, she had had too many pains to men-
tion, so she did not mention them. After working for
three years on a morning newspaper she had an illusion
of maturity and experience; but it was fatigue merely,
she decided, from keeping what she had been brought
up to believe were unnatural hours, eating casually at
dirty little restaurants, drinking bad coffee all night, and
smoking too much. When she said something of her way
of living to Adam, he studied her face a few seconds as
if he had never seen it before, and said in a forthright
way, “Why, it hasn’t hurt you a bit, I think you’re
beautiful,” and left her dangling there, wondering if he
had thought she wished to be praised. She did wish to
be praised, but not at that moment. Adam kept unwhole-
some hours too, or had in the ten days they had known
each other, staying awake until one o’clock to take her
out for supper; he smoked also continually, though if
she did not stop him he was apt to explain to her exactly
what smoking did to the lungs. “But,” he said, “does it
matter so much if you’re going to war, anyway?”
“No,” said Miranda, “and it matters even less if you’re
staying at home knitting socks. Give me a cigarette, will
you?” They paused at another corner, under a half-
foliaged maple, and hardly glanced at a funeral proces-
sion approaching. His eyes were pale tan with orange
flecks in them, and his hair was the color of a …
How the Pandemic Has Changed Us Already
The Great Depression permanently altered many people’s behavior. Could
COVID-19 do the same?
J O E P I NS KE R
AUGUST 15, 2020
from The Atlantic
During the past five months, many prognosticators have prognosticated about how the
coronavirus pandemic will transform politics, work, travel, education, and other
domains. Less sweepingly, but just as powerfully, it will also transform the people
who are living through it, rearranging the furniture of their inner life. When this is all
over—and perhaps even long after that—how will we be different?
For one thing, we’ll better understand the importance of washing our hands. When I
interviewed roughly 20 people from across the country about their pandemic-era
habits, most of them planned to keep aspects of their new hygiene regimen long into
the future, even after the threat of the coronavirus passes. “I will more regularly wash
my hands throughout my life and I will never be anywhere without hand sanitizer and
a mask,” Leah Burbach, a 27-year-old high-school teacher in Omaha, Nebraska, told
Those I interviewed said they imagine they’ll continue to be conscientious about how
viruses spread and what they can do to protect themselves and others. “I think I’ll
wear a mask if I’ve got a cold, now that I understand it’s most effective in keeping me
from spreading germs,” said Josh Jackson, a 48-year-old in Decatur, Georgia, and the
editor in chief of the culture magazine Paste.
Others foresaw themselves avoiding many activities that are currently risky, possibly
for the rest of their life. “I’ve heard wonderful things about Alaskan cruises and had
always hoped to go on one someday. No more,” said Jaclyn Reiswig, a 39-year-old
homemaker in Aurora, Colorado. “Packing so many strangers together just gives me
the germ creeps now.” Also on the list of destinations that made people wary were
gyms, indoor concerts, public pools, and restaurant buffets.
Though people may feel as if their habits have been changed forever, these careful
behaviors may not persist once they’re less urgently necessary. Katy Milkman, a
behavioral scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, told me that
habits are more likely to stick if they are accompanied by “repeated rewards.” If the
threat of the virus is neutralized, she said, “the reward for scrubbing your hands won’t
endure, and I think the average person will go back to a simpler routine.”
The pandemic “looms large right now because it’s our everything,” Milkman said.
“Certainly there will be some stickiness [in people’s behaviors], and no one’s ever
going to forget going through this, but I think people are overestimating the degree to
which their future actions will be shaped by the current circumstances.”
But even if our behaviors do fade, perhaps our mental landscapes will remain
changed. Some people I reached out to said that the pandemic had infiltrated their
dreams, possibly lastingly. “These days I have ordinary dream problems, only they
happen in an environment where doing ordinary things will kill me,” said Jane
Brooks, who’s 54 and works at a software company in Seattle. “I touch a dream hand
railing and know the clock is now ticking on my death.” She fears that these scenarios
will populate her dreams even after the pandemic is over: Growing up during the Cold
War in a small town in Alabama, she was haunted by nightmares that blended
apocalypses both nuclear and Christian. The dreams started when she was about 5 and
didn’t recede until well into adulthood.
The pandemic may also alter the way we think about social interactions. Alyssa, a 17-
year-old high-school senior in northern Indiana, said that it “was a rather extreme
wake-up call to the fact … that the things you hold on to dearly can be taken away
nearly instantly.” She expects that this lesson will give her heightened FOMO—fear
of missing out—and make her more likely to say yes to social invitations well into the
future. (I’ve identified her by only her first name to protect her privacy.)
The flip side of this renewed appetite for socializing is that more than one person told
me that they expect to be less trusting of strangers. “I’m generally more fearful of
people,” Burbach said. “Men on the street have demanded that I take my mask off.
People get too close to me.”
The seriousness with which someone treated the pandemic might become one more
trait that Americans use to size up new acquaintances. Marge Smith, a 53-year-old
clinical psychologist in New Orleans, said that while she’s usually “willing to
befriend people who are diametrically opposed in terms of their beliefs or attitudes,”
she won’t want to spend time with people who were more preoccupied with, say,
being able to dine out or go on vacation than with doing all they could to keep the
virus from spreading. “It’s likely to be a question going forward when I meet people,”
she told me.
A clear historical precedent for a traumatic, drawn-out collective experience that scars
the American populace is the Great Depression. The roughly decade-long crisis led
many people, later in life, to fear discarding anything that might turn out to be useful.
“That’s definitely part of [what came out] of adapting to the hardships of the ’30s and
then moving into a period that’s really quite well-to-do,” said Glen H. Elder, Jr., a
sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the author
of the book Children of the Great Depression, first published in 1974.
One reason he thinks the Depression affected so many people permanently was simply
its duration. For an extended period, it “called upon people to do a lot of things that
they would not [otherwise] have been called upon to do.” For instance, in some of the
hundreds of families he studied, children were expected to cook family dinners,
deliver packages, or mow the grass; this shaped how many went on to think about the
appropriate amount of responsibilities to assign to their own children.
But Elder said that the long-term effects of living through a global crisis are
“idiosyncratic” and vary from person to person: “Everyone has their own
Duration is perhaps the key to understanding why another global tragedy, the 1918–19
influenza pandemic, didn’t seem to shape people’s habits much in the long term. “The
whole thing was very swift,” John Barry, the author of The Great Influenza: The Story
of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, told me. During the pandemic’s second and
third waves, when daily life was affected most, Americans typically endured no more
than a few months of disruption. And unlike today, “the stress was not continuous,”
Barry noted—in many places there were “several months of relative normalcy in
between” the two waves. (The first wave was far milder, and didn’t interrupt daily
Children at a nursery school in England gargle as a precaution against the flu in
1938. (Reg Speller / Fox Photos / Getty)
In 2020, five months—and counting—of deviating from our previously normal
routines have given us an opportunity to reevaluate old habits. “Normally we go about
our daily lives and … tend not to change our” behaviors, Milkman said. “We need
some sort of triggering event that leads us to step back and think bigger-picture.”
This trigger can come in the form of a “temporal landmark”—Milkman
has studied the importance of recurring ones, such as new years, new weeks, and
birthdays, in prompting behavior adjustments—or a change, big or small, that
interrupts well-trodden patterns. “We’ve got both things going on with the pandemic,”
she said. “There’s a mental time boundary—everyone’s like, ‘Whoa, in March of
2020, I opened a new chapter’—and we have this constraint [of social distancing] that
forces us to explore new things. So it’s a double whammy.”
In this way, the pandemic has led to welcome discoveries for some. “After being
locked indoors for months I realized my skin and hair look great without any
products, expensive creams, serums, conditioners, or treatments,” said Lizzette
Arroyo, a 34-year-old in Ontario, California, who teaches community-college
economics classes. She anticipates that, after the pandemic, she’ll greatly reduce her
previously $100-a-month skin-care budget, and buy less new clothing and wear less
makeup as well.
Naomi Thyden, a 31-year-old doctoral student in Minnesota, said that she’s been
happily wearing a bra less often during the pandemic, including out of the house. “The
only reason a lot of people wear bras is because our breasts, as they exist naturally, are
deemed inappropriate by society,” she told me. “For some people bras provide needed
support, but for a lot of us they serve no other purpose and are uncomfortable.”
And Caitlin Kunkel, a 36-year-old writer and humorist living in Brooklyn, has
stopped carrying a big bag when she leaves the house, because she’s no longer out and
about for extended periods. She expects she’ll be less likely to bring it with her even
after the pandemic. “I’ve gotten used to not having shooting pain up my left
shoulder,” she said. “That big shoulder bag full of 12 hours’ [worth] of stuff is a relic
of 2019 and before.”
The constraints of the present moment have even helped some break established,
unhealthy habits. Smith, the New Orleanian, has been smoking for most of the past 40
years, but she quit six weeks ago. “The pandemic was a time when I really couldn’t go
anywhere or do much of anything and I felt this was a good time to start, since any
crabbiness wouldn’t impact anyone else,” she told me. Likewise, Zach Millard, a 28-
year-old in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, used to have about 15 to 20 drinks a week, in
part because it soothed his social anxiety. But when the pandemic kept him at home,
he started drinking less and reflecting on his habit. “If COVID-19 never happened …
I would have barreled right into alcoholism,” he told me. He’s now down to two or
three drinks a week.
Of course, the pandemic can just as easily promote unwelcome behaviors. “In general,
the more out of control [peoples’] life circumstances, the more stressed they feel by
what is going on around them, and the less social support people experience, the more
vulnerable they are to using maladaptive coping,” Bethany Brand, a clinical-
psychology professor at Towson University, told me. That can manifest as excessive
sleeping or drinking, among other things. Further, Brand said, the threats of the
pandemic can fuel anxiety, including after they’re gone.
“I struggle with anxiety so it’s basically hit me in the face during this,” said Alex
Tanguay, who’s 30 and works in TV-news production in Tempe, Arizona. “Anything
that comes into the apartment, I’m disinfecting.” She told me she feels as if she might
be paranoid, but at the same time she wants to keep her roommate and co-workers
safe. (She’s been going to work in person.)
One thing that’s given Tanguay some comfort, though, is doing puzzles, and I heard
of many stress-relieving activities that people had recently adopted, beyond the
pandemic clichés of watching more Netflix and baking sourdough bread. People have
been spending more time meditating, birding, gardening, cooking, and sewing.
Alexander Aquino, a TV and film editor in Los Angeles, said the pandemic has led
him to check in more regularly with friends and family, something he hopes to
maintain well into the future. Zeeshan Butt, a health psychologist in Oak Park,
Illinois, has started riding 50 to 75 miles a week on his bike. “Before the pandemic, I
rode next to never,” he said.
The most unusual stress reliever I heard about was from Millard. Each morning, he
puts on some soft music and works his way through the pile of dirty dishes and
kitchenware deposited the previous night by him and his three roommates, scrubbing
away in the early light. “The hot water washing over my hands and the steam hitting
my face brings this unique sense of calmness to me as I’m still waking up for the
day,” he said. “It’s similar to a hot shower.”
Although Millard thinks the dishwashing habit may taper off after the pandemic—
he’d have to wake up early to do it and still get to work on time—many of these new
routines, hobbies, and preferences may remain after the pandemic subsides. Milkman
pointed me to a 2017 paper, titled “The Benefits of Forced Experimentation,” that
studied the commuting paths of Londoners before and after a public-transit strike that
shut down some Tube stations for two days. The service interruption led many people
to come up with new routes to work—and some of them, an estimated 5 percent,
found that their new route was better than their old one. They stuck with it even after
the strike ended.
This is how Milkman thinks about which behaviors might outlast this era, and which
will fade. “If what they discovered is overall actually better [than what they used to
do], then it’ll stick,” she said. In contrast, behaviors like hand-washing and mask
wearing would be more likely to abate if the threat of the virus—and thus the reward
of keeping up those habits—recedes. In other words, most of us will probably revert
to our old ways—except for when, through awful circumstances, we stumbled upon
new ones that work better.
JOE PINSKER is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers families and relationships.
Lessons from the past: How the deadly
second wave of the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’
caught Dallas and the U.S. by surprise
Health concerns about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic are rooted in the
catastrophic second wave of the 1918 pandemic, which hit between
September and November of that year.
By David Tarrant
9:00 AM on Jul 3, 2020
Illustration by staff artist Michael Hogue.(Michael Hogue / Michael Hogue illustration)
As August gave way to September of 1918, few people were thinking about the
influenza that would soon sweep across Texas and the rest of the country with the speed and
deadly ferocity of a firestorm.
There had been a relatively mild version of the virus in the spring of that year, mostly
affecting troops mobilizing to go off to World War I over in Europe. But by summer the disease
known at the time as the Spanish flu had been largely forgotten.
The front pages of The Dallas Morning News were dominated by news of American troops
pouring into Europe for what would come to be known as World War I.
But that would quickly change. By the end of September, a second wave of the flu, far
deadlier, would sweep across the country, hitting Dallas and other large cities hard.
When health experts worry about the course of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, they
often look back at the second wave of the 1918 pandemic, between September and November,
when influenza cases overwhelmed hospitals and medical staffs across the country and the dead
piled up faster than they could be buried.
In Dallas that year, the city’s chief health officer, A.W. Carnes, waved off the fast-
approaching pandemic as not much more than the common cold. In a major blunder, he permitted
a patriotic parade in late September that attracted a cheering crowd of thousands jammed
Cases of influenza promptly spiked.
The second wave would produce most of the deaths of the pandemic, which experts now
estimate at 50 million to 100 million worldwide. In the United States, 675,000 people died from
The Dallas Morning News on Sept. 27, 1918, reported the rapid spread of the Spanish flu. Despite the worsening
conditions, Dallas medical officials hesitated to impose restrictions on public gatherings for more than two weeks.
As it did then, the world is struggling with a virus for which there is no vaccine. COVID-19,
the sickness caused by the new coronavirus, has advanced unabated around the world since it first
appeared in China late last year. By the end of June, the number of deaths worldwide exceeded
Like the Spanish flu in 1918, the new coronavirus isn’t showing signs of fading away
anytime soon. Texas ended June with alarm lights flashing as new COVID-19 cases set records
daily and hospitalizations spiked from the new coronavirus surge in North Texas and across the
state. This week, new cases reported statewide hit a peak of around 8,000 in a single day.
“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is
this is not even close to being over,” said World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom
Those who thought the 1918 influenza was over after its appearance that spring would
be in for a huge shock. In just one month, October 1918, almost 200,000 Americans died from the
The 1918 influenza was “the greatest, most destructive pandemic in the history of the
world,” Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, said in a recent
live video chat.
The seasonal flu typically affects the sick, the very young and the very old. The 1918
version attacked healthy young adults the hardest, with the highest mortality rate among those
ages 20 to 40, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What made the 1918 flu so destructive was its ability to mutate to new forms and
continue its deadly path, Haley said. In the worst cases, “you’d get sick in the morning, become
deathly ill in the afternoon and be dead in the evening.”
The flu caused many to die of pneumonia. But the virus, like the one linked to COVID-19,
also sometimes triggered a deadly “cytokine storm,” causing a massive overproduction of the cells
used to fight off infections, resulting in organ failure when the cells attacked healthy tissues, Haley
With no cure at hand, authorities ordered preventive measures in 1918 that sound eerily
familiar today: wear masks; wash hands; avoid crowds.
Schools and movie theaters closed. So did pool rooms and dance halls.
Posters and newspaper ads urged people to cover their mouths and noses when coughing
or sneezing. Spitting on the street was banned.
“It’s amazing how little difference there is in the advice for avoiding getting sick,” said Dr.
Peggy Redshaw, an expert on the Spanish flu and a professor emeritus of biology at Sherman’s
“The whole point is to buy us time for the scientists to figure out what we can do,” Redshaw
said. “That’s all we can do is buy time.”
Mild first wave
Experts believe the 1918 pandemic originated in rural Haskell County, Kan., and quickly
infiltrated nearby Camp Funston, a training center for Army draftees at Fort Riley. That spring,
young men surged into such camps all over the country, training, eating and sleeping in close
quarters as they prepared for war.
Soldiers carried the virus with them as they transferred from base to base and boarded
ships for the war in Europe. The virus triggered outbreaks at dozens of posts around the country
and spread to the war in Europe, cutting down troops on both sides. Some historians even believe
the influenza forced an early end of the war.
Victims of the 1918 Spanish influenza crowded into an emergency hospital at Fort Riley, Kan. The 1918 pandemic is
believed to have killed more than 50 million people worldwide. The virus strain had been mild in the spring but
turned deadly that fall. In Dallas and elsewhere, entire families were wiped out and many children were
“Spanish flu” was a misnomer arising from censorship of news that could hurt soldiers’
morale in the countries involved in World War I. Newspapers in Spain, which was neutral, freely
published accounts of the deadly flu, making it appear as if the disease started there.
That spring, the influenza was a milder version that mostly affected troops. Civilians
largely had not been exposed to the virus and therefore had little, if any, immunity.
Initially, “most of the country didn’t get hit at all,” said John Barry, author of The Great
Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Plague in History.
The flu hit about half of the military camps in the United States “but significantly fewer
civilian areas,” he said.
Come fall, that would change.
The flu returned in September 1918 primarily because a large percentage of the
population hadn’t been exposed to the virus, Barry said.
Exposure during the first wave offered protection against the second wave of the virus,
reducing the risk of illness by almost 90%.
“The best vaccine we’ve ever produced against the flu was 62% effective,” Barry said.
But that kind of protection also showed that the first wave of influenza had not been at all
widespread, “because if it had been you would have had a much diminished second wave,” he
The American Red Cross sprayed soldiers’ throats at Love Field on Nov. 6, 1918. The spray typically consisted of an
antiseptic. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)
Dallas had about 150,000 residents in September 1918, or about 10% of the current
In September, the State Fair was canceled so the land could be used to train new soldiers.
Camp Dick, located at Fair Park, began to quarantine new men arriving at the post to ensure they
weren’t infected with the flu.
Dallas health officials didn’t seem worried. In late September, The News carried an article,
“Influenza Scare is Rapidly Subsiding,” and cited “sporadic cases of Spanish influenza” that had
been reported to the City Emergency Hospital.
Dr. A.W. Carnes, the city’s health officer, said the local cases resembled the old-fashioned
grippe, or cold, and did not seem to portend an epidemic.
But Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie had already reported 40 cases of the flu, and Army
leaders imposed a ban on soldiers coming together for dances or for watching movies, playing
pool and the like.
Despite the risk, Dallas went ahead with one popular gathering: the Liberty Loan parade.
Liberty Loan parade
As war raged in Europe, Americans were asked to contribute to the effort by buying war
bonds, a way the public could lend money to the government to pay for the war. Cities across the
country staged huge rallies and parades to promote the buying of these bonds.
The morning of Sept. 28, thousands flocked downtown to see 5,000 civilians and 2,500
soldiers march in a parade as part of the Fourth Liberty Loan campaign to sell bonds to fund the
The patriotic Victory Liberty Loan Parade in downtown Dallas in 1917 was similar to one the following year that led
to rapid spread of the Spanish flu. (Courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.)(unknown / Courtesy
of the DeGolyer Library)
As the band played “For Your Boy and My Boy” and other patriotic songs, huge crowds
jammed Main and Elm streets.
“Seldom has Dallas seen such a parade,” The News gushed. “By tens of thousands the
citizenship participated in the celebration and by scores of thousands the remainder of the
citizenship watched and cheered and applauded.”
After the parade, flu cases increased exponentially, according to a report in The News on
Oct. 4, 1918. A total of 76 cases were reported on Oct. 3, twice as many as in the previous two
days. The News also reported the city’s first flu death that day. Pierpont Balderson, 15, died at
St. Paul’s Hospital. After being stricken with the flu, he had come down with pneumonia.
The Liberty Loan parades turned out to be “a disaster everywhere they had it,” Redshaw
Carnes hesitated to impose a quarantine, though other city leaders urged him to do so
and nearby military camps were already isolating the sick.
On Oct. 12, Mayor Joseph Lawther took matters into his own hands, ordering a temporary
halt of all public gatherings, including the closing of schools and churches, according to an article
in The News.
That day, 725 more cases were reported to the City Emergency Hospital, bringing the
city’s overall total to 3,444. That was almost 20 times more than the 185 total cases reported just
nine days earlier on Oct. 3.
The Dallas mayor ordered streets cleaned every night because residents were spitting in
gutters; he asked store owners to flush their sidewalks.
Just nine days after Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie reported 40 cases of the flu on Sept. 27,
the Army post recorded nearly 2,000 cases and four deaths on Oct. 6.
The flu attacked the well off and the poor alike, along with nurses and doctors. Entire
families were sickened.
An Oct. 26 story in The News quoted a nurse as saying that a family of nine people of
Mexican heritage had all been stricken by the flu, including three in the last stages of pneumonia.
When a landlord threatened to evict a sick family, United Charities stepped in to pay the rent.
The group also purchased groceries and medication for those too sick to work.
The virus continued to wreak havoc into December before finally winding down in the
spring of 1919 after a brief third wave.
It is difficult to determine the full impact of the pandemic in North Texas. On Dec. 13,
1918, The News reported that 456 residents had died from the flu or pneumonia since Oct. 1 of
But experts believe many cases of the flu were never officially recorded. “The record-
keeping was terrible,” said Redshaw, the Spanish flu expert at Austin College.
“They couldn’t keep track of the numbers. The cases were overwhelming,” she said. “A lot
of people lived in rural areas and didn’t get counted at all.”
According to a history of the Dallas County Health Department, written in 1941, more
people died than were born in the city from October through December of 1918.
“This had never happened before and has not happened since,” the account said.
Parallels with today
Because the 1918 flu subsided after the first wave that spring before roaring back in the
fall, it was once thought that higher summer temperatures affected it.
In fact, susceptibility trumped seasonality, said Barry, the author and expert on the 1918
pandemic. The spring outbreak had left most of the country unaffected.
“I do see a parallel with today,” Barry said. “In both cases, you had an overwhelming
part of the population that was susceptible.”
He pointed out that places like Florida, Arizona, Texas and Brazil are all seeing cases of
coronavirus rise sharply even as temperatures spike.
“Temperature is a factor,” he said, but “susceptibility is much more important.”
Another parallel can be found in the public’s reaction to health directives. Pushback
against the wearing of masks and restrictions on public worship happened in 1918 just as today.
“There was plenty of pushback, especially if a city lifted restrictions and then reimposed
them,” Barry said.
In San Francisco, someone even sent a bomb to public health authorities when they
reimposed a mask ordinance, he said.
The new virus is spreading almost as fast as the 1918 flu did. And because there is no
vaccine or widespread immunity, it will likely “run unrestrained and kill many people,” said Haley,
the UT Southwestern epidemiologist.
In the end, the reason flu pandemics come in waves is that they find new places where
people are vulnerable, Redshaw said.
“Until it runs out of people who are vulnerable to that virus, it’s going to keep on coming