SUU president reminds community ‘we’ve been through worse,’ reflects on Spanish Flu

Composite image, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, Sept. 4, 2019, part of an article printed in 1918 in the Iron County Record | Photo by Ryann Richardson, St. George News

CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt shared news articles from 1918 related to the university’s involvement in providing aid during the Spanish Flu Pandemic via Facebook on Tuesday.

According to an article from the Iron County Record on Nov 29, 1918, the university, then called Branch Agricultural College, turned one of its buildings into an emergency hospital “for the benefit of patients who cannot receive as scientific nursing or covenant and favorable accommodations at home.”

The article says patients improved at the temporary hospital as fast as in any other facility, and the university housed about six or seven patients at one time.

Additionally, the building was particularly suited for hospital services, due to rooms that were “steam-heated, well-ventilated, with convenient kitchen.”

Special Collections Librarian Paula Mitchell told Cedar City News in an email that it took an estimated two weeks for the Spanish Flu to afflict Cedar City.

“Someone from New York traveled to Salt Lake City and attended an October Conference. Someone from Cedar also attended the conference,” she said. “That’s how they think it was transmitted and traveled to Cedar City.”

Mitchell also said that at the time, the public library asked anyone who had a book checked out to burn it rather than return it to the library.

An article from the Iron County Record dated Dec 6, 1918, screenshot taken April 10, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

Another article from the Iron County Record printed on Dec 6, 1918 indicated that a crew of coal miners working at the Iron County Coal Company were treated at the emergency hospital: “about half of them are now in the BA emergency hospital receiving the best of care and attention and more are expected in.”

The Iron County Record also reported on Dec 6, 1918 that Cedar City “may be closed up tight during the Christmas holidays” if the situation did not improve rapidly.

On Dec 20, 1918, the emergency hospital was closed with a “splendid record” according to the Iron County Record. At that time, there were only two or three new cases reported, and the university’s building was being transformed back into a school building “for resumption of school work on the 30th.”

Wyatt shared some of this information in his post, and used the 102-year-old articles as “a good reminder that we have been through worse before and we will get through this pandemic as well.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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