Recent graduate Nate Turner publishes column on the lessons of the 1918 flu epidemic
December 2020 graduate Nate Turner has published an Op-Ed, “What Michigan’s response to the 1918 flu epidemic can teach us about the COVID pandemic,” in Michigan Advance. The column draws on research Nate conducted in Fall 2020 for HIST 490W: Senior Seminar, a capstone course in which History majors research and write a fifteen-page paper based in primary sources. In his research, Nate seized on the opportunity to put the Covid-19 pandemic in historical perspective by examining local responses to the 1918 flu epidemic in Michigan. He looked at how three of the larger population centers, Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, reacted to not only the epidemic, but to the state government’s order restricting business. He found that many local health officials opposed the state’s order closing non-essential business because they thought that it would hurt the economy and cause people to panic. Many politicians on the state and local level were in favor of the restrictions as they were reacting to the concerns of the public. Nate then brought his research into the present day, noting that local officials in Baraga County Michigan refused to enforce Governor Whitmer’s orders. The Baraga County officials’ rejection of Whitmer’s restrictions was similar to the reaction of local officials during the 1918 flu, but the officials in 1918 still enforced the orders despite their personal disagreements.
Nate graduated with a B.A. in History, and he is primarily interested in the history of disease and medicine. Nate recently moved to the Cincinnati area and is considering pursuing a Master’s in public history.