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THE EGGLESTON REPORT – VIRUS HISTORY: SMALLPOX

Representative J. Eggleston (R-Maysville)

The Special Session called to allocate funds for Covid and reform lawsuits for Covid has been postponed, ironically, due to Covid.  An outbreak in the Senate has caused concern, so they will idle for a couple weeks and then consider returning. 

Interestingly, this is not the first time a virus outbreak has caused an interruption of the legislature.  I recently came across an article about a January 1907 outbreak of smallpox, which is more contagious and deadlier than Covid.  The outbreak so concerned one state representative that he offered a resolution that read “all members of the House are hereby requested to take sulphur, cream of tartar, eat onions three times a day, and wear suspended around the neck a small bag of asafetida (ferula root extract) both night and day until danger has passed.”

Some legislators became so scared of the virus that they refused to meet with their fellow members from around the state for fear of contracting it, and fled back to their home districts.  In response, Governor Joseph Folk refused to let the legislature shut down, stating the only time that had happened was during the Civil War.  The Sergeant-at-Arms was instructed to locate the wayward legislators and bring them back, by force if necessary.

But returning proved difficult as many of the hotels where the legislators stayed refused to board them.  In response, the governor allowed them to live in the governor’s mansion.  The Jeff City mayor recommended all places of amusement be closed, similar to the shutdown many businesses have endured during Covid.  Further complicating things, the capitol building was fumigated with formaldehyde, whose strong smell rendered the capitol unusable for a while.  When the session reconvened, no public was allowed in – only legislators, lobbyists, and reporters.

Handshakes became frowned upon, no one was allowed in the capitol until they had their temperature taken, and a special committee was formed to investigate and discuss the smallpox outbreak, all of which also happened this year with Covid.  Eventually, smallpox vaccinations, which had existed for years, were mandated, and anyone who would not take them was not permitted to work or serve at the capitol.  That mandate probably won’t fly with Covid.

In the end, the smallpox outbreak lasted two to three months, and three representatives and five clerks contracted it.  None of them died.  To my knowledge, one to two dozen legislators and staffers have contracted Covid over the ten months it has been with us, also with no deaths.  To read more interesting tidbits about the smallpox outbreak, visit https://www.senate.mo.gov/LegislativeLibrary/Timeline.html.

Until next time, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family.

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