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Life in Los Angeles was breaking down. Three weeks had passed since the city had shuttered all public venues to contain the outbreak. More than 1,100 people were sick, 26 had died, and the rates of infection and death continued to rise.
Acting on the advice of a special committee made up of prominent physicians, chiefs of police, and the State Board of Health, city leaders ordered all schools, colleges, churches, theaters, bars, and performance venues to immediately shut down and to stay closed until further notice. Ten thousand placards announcing the order were printed and posted throughout L.A., and the city’s chief of police vowed to enforce it to the letter.
The emergency ward of the county hospital was besieged by patients. L.A.’s fire stations were quarantined after 80 firemen came down with the disease. Scores of inmates were stricken at the East Side Jail. Members of the public demanded that inbound trains be inspected at the state line. Department stores were barred from holding special sales for fear of drawing a crowd. Elevators were not allowed to fill up to more than 50 percent of their capacity. The public was warned against riding in crowded buses and trains. Then, as now, prominent business leaders complained that the order was more drastic than the situation required. Hollywood theater owners were on the verge of revolt over their mounting losses.