There is no modern precedent for what is going on with COVID-19. The closest thing we have is the Spanish Flu from 1918.

In 2000, the Wisconsin Magazine of History published a story regarding the Spanish Flu and what it did to the state.

The article, Wisconsin and the Great Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 by Steven Burg.

“In December 1918, the State Board of Health declared that the “Spanish flu” epidemic that had just swept the state would “forever be remembered as the most disastrous calamity that has ever been visited upon the people of Wisconsin or any of the other states.”

The first death of the flu was a college student from Cumberland, Arthur Ness, studying at UW-Madison.

During that epidemic, between September and December of 1918 over 100,000 residents suffered from the flu and it ended up killing 8,459 residents.

That is more Wisconsin lives claimed than WWI, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

According to the CDC, the Spanish flu killed about 675,000 Americans.

The global pandemic killed more than 20 million people and some estimates are as high as 50 million were killed in the span of just a few months.

According to U.S. Census data, Wisconsin’s population in 1918 was just over 2.5 million residents. 1920 Census data shows Burnett County population was 10,735.

In Burnett County, the flu claimed 15 lives. It was one of 18 counties across Wisconsin that had 0-20 deaths per 10,000 residents.

Burg states that Wisconsin was better prepared for the pandemic because of the state’s low population density and civic and government action played a critical role

“No great ship sank, no armies clashed, no conflagration consumed a community,” Burg wrote. “The flu spread insidiously by means of ordinary coughs and sneezes, borne through communities along the channels of human contact.”