A virtual discussion exploring the parallels between the 1918-19 flu pandemic and COVID-19 will be held Tuesday, prior to the premiere of “We’re All In This Together,” a film about the earlier pandemic.
“The response is remarkably similar to what we’ve experienced in the last year,” University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown history professor Paul Newman said.
Newman will kick off the event with a slideshow of research he and his students did on the flu from 100 years ago before the conversation with panelists, including professor emerita of medical history and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin Judith Walzer Leavitt and Pitt-Johnstown associate professor of biology Jill D. Henning.
It will also be live-streamed on the In This Together Cambria Facebook page.
Newman said his presentation involves headlines from Johnstown newspapers of the time that demonstrate how the pandemic developed and the community responded. There were lockdowns, school and restaurant closures and, after the end of World War I, residents began resisting health and safety orders.
Newman said the Red Cross also created initiatives to make and distribute masks.
“The way that people survived was by quarantining, distancing, hand-washing,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Sharing this information is an “empowering” experience for the professor after a year where he’s felt powerless.
“We need to know that we’re not alone and that we’re in this together, and that’s not just today, but across time,” he said.
Newman also wrote and directed the film “We’re All In This Together,” which constructs a narrative about a family living in Cambria City during the 1918-19 pandemic, told through the perspective of a woman.
“The film ... does a tremendous job of showing the human side of the pandemic while also presenting sound scientific information,” Henning said in a release.
The first of the four-part episodic series will be released at 7 p.m. Thursday and can be accessed by visiting the above Zoom link. It will also be streamed on the In This Together Cambria Facebook and Youtube pages.
Subsequent episodes will be released every Thursday at the same time on the same platforms until May 13.
Each premiere will be followed by a virtual discussion with Newman and others involved at 7:30 p.m.
A single cut, 40-minute version is expected to be created and released locally this summer.