Norfolk’s attempt to control the Spanish flu was half-hearted. The county paid a high price for that.
Public health reporting was hit-and-miss 100 years ago, but records indicate the aggressive virus killed about 50,000 Canadians from 1918 to 1920.
This is comparable to the number of Canadian soldiers who died in the First World War. Using that as a yardstick, it is conceivable that Spanish flu killed 250 residents of Norfolk – about the same number of county soldiers (265) who made the supreme sacrifice from 1914 to 1918.
There were a number of reasons for this lack of urgency. In Simcoe, the town’s board of health ordered specific closures and social distancing for several weeks in the fall of 1918. But the closures were not exhaustive, and they were lifted in November just as they seemed to be working.
Then as now, people fretted about being cooped up and the challenges this posed for commerce and the provision of employment.