We’re bringing you the most recent updates stemming from the coronavirus pandemic to prepare you for the week ahead. Also, today’s Q&A offers a history lesson about how a Montgomery County doctor fought a different outbreak, and how the decisions made decades ago could point to how officials can respond to our current conditions under this new reality.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week, we chat with Tom Avril, who learned how one particular Montgomery County doctor, J. Roswell Gallagher, handled a deadly measles outbreak and examined what we can learn from past heroics to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
How did you first hear about J. Roswell Gallagher?
A colleague noticed that a Johns Hopkins University professor had mentioned Dr. Gallagher in a commentary piece for the Wall Street Journal. There was a brief description of the virus outbreak Gallagher had encountered at the Hill School. And since that is right in our area, in Pottstown, I wanted to find out more.
What resources did you use to research him?
I emailed the Hopkins professor at 11 a.m. on a Friday, and he was kind enough to get right back to me, even though he was traveling. He sent me a link to Dr. Gallagher’s original study of the 1934 virus outbreak, which was published in a medical journal the following year. I quickly read the study, called him back to ask more questions, and started writing.
How can historical stories like this lend insight into current events?
I learned that in China, physicians already were trying this very same approach in treating the new coronavirus. Dr. Gallagher was treating a different virus — measles — but the idea is the same. You take antibody-laden “serum” from the blood of someone who has been infected, and you infuse it into other people to protect them from getting sick.
When it comes to the coronavirus, what other opportunities are there to learn from the past?
There are plenty of other lessons from history that apply to the coronavirus. For example, some Americans seem to think that a virus could never “jump” from animals to humans here in the United States, as this one did in a live animal market in China. But that is just plain wrong. Viruses jump from animals to humans in every country, as a result of all kinds of human activities, and it has been happening for thousands of years.
As coverage of the virus continues, what kinds of stories or issues are you going to be looking for outside of just the day-to-day breaking news?
We could always use some uplifting words during these trying times. Thanks for sharing this, @mhaubenstein.
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Please, please don’t attack small businesses. People will often “see” the money earned, but don’t understand the expenses associated with earning that dollar. Full-time employees require him to pay several different taxes. This income level was extremely unusual and likely will not be repeated, especially after his customers stock up or go on unemployment themselves. We’re operating in a vast unknown. All of my employees were paid, we took half salaries. It is a restless night indeed when you’re unsure how you’re going to pay people you know are depending on you for their mortgage, food or childcare. — pj_fb18d on A Philly grocer made $35,000 in sales in a day during the pandemic. Then 21 employees were let go