NEVADA CITY (CBS13) — Nevada City’s decision to pass a new face covering enforcement ordinance is similar to an action the city took during the last pandemic in 1918.
Minutes from Nevada City council meetings in 1918 show violators of mask guidelines then could face jail time and a whopping $100 fine, equal to $1,700 in today’s economy.
The city council’s archived minutes dating back to the 1800s are stored in the basement of city hall, in leather-bound books, enclosing pages of neat cursive handwriting. The 1918 pandemic entry was discovered by city clerk Niel Locke.
Locke read a position out loud: “Special meeting called to consider measure of coping with the epidemic known as the Spanish influenza.”
“This was unanimously voted on by the trustees at the time that masks will be worn, no exceptions,” Locke said.
The minutes show churches were not allowed to congregate, and bars and saloons were closed.
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Photos from the California State Library show people wearing masks in 1918, including one with of an officer arresting an unmasked man, the caption reads “tell it to the judge.”
The Spanish influenza killed six people in Nevada City. Locke believes the enforcement regulations saved many more lives.
“Why can’t we think like that and act like that, and not do all this fighting,” Locke said.
Last week, protestors rallied at Nevada City city hall opposing the current council’s new face-covering enforcement, allowing police to issue civil citations of face mask violators.
Two pandemics a century apart. And one city’s effort to police public health. For anyone seeking a survival guide, the history is here.