This depiction is from Laurie Garrett, _The Coming Plague_. It reminds me that there are many possibilities for how life ends up looking in the US during and after covid19, which are between the extremes of total lockdown and a complete return to the 2010s.
“By the time my Uncle Bernard started his medical studies at the University of Chicago in 1932 he had already witnessed the great influenza pandemic of 1918–19. He was seven years old when he counted the funeral hearses that made their way down the streets of Baltimore. Three years earlier Bernard’s father had nearly died of typhoid fever, acquired in downtown Baltimore. And shortly after, his grandfather died of tuberculosis.
In his twelfth year Bernard got what was called “summer sickness,” spending the long, hot Maryland days lying about the house, “acting lazy,” as his mother put it. It wasn’t until 1938, when he volunteered as an X-ray guinea pig during his internship at the University of California’s medical school in San Francisco, that Uncle Bernard discovered that the “summer sickness” was actually tuberculosis. He had no doubt acquired consumption from his grandfather, survived the disease, but for the rest of his life had telltale scars in his lungs that were revealed by chest X rays.
It seemed that everybody had TB in those days. When young Bernard Silber was struggling his way through medical studies in Chicago, incoming nursing students were routinely tested for antibodies against TB. The women who came from rural areas always tested negative for TB when they started their studies. With equal certainty, they all tested TB-positive after a year on the urban hospital wards. Any ailment in those days could light up a latent TB infection, and tuberculosis sanitariums were overflowing. Treatment was pretty much limited to bed rest and a variety of hotly debated diets, exercise regimens, fresh air, and extraordinary pneumothorax surgical procedures.
In 1939 Uncle Bernard started a two-year residency in medicine at Los Angeles County Hospital, where he met my Aunt Bernice, a medical social worker. Bernice limped and was deaf in one ear, the results of a childhood bacterial infection. When she was nine, the bacteria grew in her ear, eventually infecting the mastoid bone. A complication of that was osteomyelitis, which left her right leg about an inch shorter than her left, forcing Bernice to walk knock-kneed to keep her balance. Shortly after they met, Bernard got a nasty pneumococcal infection and, because he was a physician, received state-of-the-art treatment: tender loving care and oxygen. For a month he languished as a patient in Los Angeles County Hospital hoping he would be among the 60 percent of Americans who, in the days before antibiotics, survived bacterial pneumonia.
Bacterial infections were both common and very serious before 1944, when the first antibiotic drugs became available. My Uncle Bernard could diagnose scarlet fever, pneumococcal pneumonia, rheumatic fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, or tuberculosis in a matter of minutes with little or no laboratory support. Doctors had to know how to work quickly because these infections could escalate rapidly. Besides, there wasn’t much the lab could tell a physician in 1940 that a well-trained, observant doctor couldn’t determine independently.”