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Flu epidemic led to Manteca’s first hospital

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Flu epidemic led to Manteca’s first hospital

The HOPE Family Shelter at West Yosemite and Sequoia avenues was built in 1919 as the city's first hospital. Several years later it was converted into apartments.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 4, 2009 1:03 a.m.

The worst flu season in American history led to the building of Manteca’s first hospital 90 years ago.

The severe influenza epidemic started in 1918. At its peak, 202 people were dying every day in the United States from flu. Altogether one-fourth of the United States population was stricken with the flu. Worldwide, 500,000 people died during the epidemic.

Manteca’s first case of flu was reported in October 1918.

Three people died in Manteca and almost half of the community was stricken.

That prompted the City Council to adopt an ordinance imposing a $100 fine on anyone who walked down a public street without wearing a mask.

All county schools were closed. Public gatherings were prohibited. Churches suspended services.

The old two-story Yosemite Grammar School — where the Sequoia Annex is now located — had classrooms turned into hospital wards. Teachers stayed at the school 24 hours to care for the sick.

Entire families became sick from the flu. The city sent representatives to the homes each day to check food, clothing and linens.  Those three items were all provided by the city.

There were 49 Manteca families quarantined by mid-November of 1918.

Dr. S.N. Cross — the only physician in Manteca — was stretched thin caring for the ill in Manteca, Lathrop, and French Camp.

The flu receded before Christmas but as churches started meeting again and holiday activities started, the influenza gained momentum prompting the prohibition again of public gatherings. There were no new cases after February 1919.

Once council meetings resumed, the top item on the agenda was health care.

Manteca advertised for someone to construct a hospital in Manteca.

Dr. Roscoe Gray from the Bay Area took Manteca up on their offer. He ended up building the hospital — the current homeless shelter — that was big enough for 30 patients and had 18 private rooms, two wards, an operating room, and two bathrooms. The cost was less than $25,000.

It was dedicated on Aug. 1, 1919. It ceased being a hospital on June 4, 1920.

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