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The Spanish Flu & SF Mask Laws: Uncovering the Truth in SF Law Library’s Historical Archives

By Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian

A recent reference inquiry had us looking through our archived early San Francisco materials to research the city’s mask laws of 1918 and 1919 during the Spanish flu. San Francisco was the first city in the country to enact a mask-wearing requirement in October of 1918, and much has been written online about it, but our patron had been unable to locate the text of the law and turned to us for help.

Our collection of historical San Francisco codes and ordinances includes many volumes that have subsequent amendments “tipped in,” where new laws are physically pasted onto pages of the existing bound volume. Our copy ofGeneral Ordinances of the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, December 1, 1915, has both of the mask ordinances tipped in, from October 1918 and January 1919:

Another resource in our collection is the Journal of Proceedings of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which reveals the debate and discussion surrounding the mask laws and many historical details of what the city and its government officials were facing at the time. It contains not only the text of the mask ordinances, but also statements from the supervisors and Mayor Rolph, the Board of Health reports and recommendations, and public debate and opposition. Our print collection of the Journal of Proceedings covers 1906 to 1989, and some volumes have been also digitized for the Internet Archive website.

San Francisco’s mask law was in effect twice, first from October 25, 1918 until November 28, 1918 and then again from January 17, 1919 to February 1, 1919. A comparison of the debate in the Journal of Proceedings in the lead up to the enactment of each ordinance shows just how much pressure was on city officials by a public that was overall quite opposed to the law. (Another attempt at enacting a mask requirement was voted down on December 19, 1918 by vote of 7 to 9, after the Public Health Committee of the Board of Supervisors urged that any mask law should be imposed by State officials instead of by the City government—a likely indication of an attempt to deflect responsibility for an unpopular measure.) While both the October 1918 and January 1919 ordinances passed with almost the same supervisors in favor and against, several supervisors who voted in favor of reenactment in January also submitted a statement in the “explanation of the vote” section of the Journal of Proceedings, which was not present in the earlier October 1918 proceedings, to indicate their skepticism of masks’ efficacy but willingness nonetheless to proceed with the Board of Health’s advisement to reenact the law. Also during the January 1919 debate, more members of the public appeared to speak against the law, including the vocal Anti-Mask League, which quickly submitted a petition to repeal the new law on January 27, 1919. Finally, the mask law was reenacted at the same time that the Board of Supervisors issued Resolution No. 16421, which urged the State Board of Health to take action on masks at the state level.

One last detail in the Journal of Proceedings hints at the source of much of the public’s displeasure with the mask ordinance. Before final passage of the reenactment on January 17, 1919, in light of the public being 99.5% opposed to the law, Supervisor Nelson proposed an (unsuccessful) amendment that would remove the penalty clause of the law. Section 3 of the ordinance stated that the penalty that could be imposed for failing to wear a mask ranged from a fine of $5 to $100 to imprisonment for 10 days, or both. The San Francisco Examiner from October 29, 1918 describes “Mask Slackers” being slapped with fines and, for some offenders, stiff jail sentences of 30 days. That day’s issue also reports that three people were shot when an Inspector from the Health Department fired his gun at a man who attacked him for enforcing the law.

The Journal of Proceedings is a remarkable record of the times and it also shows how to some extent the past mirrors our present circumstances. We’re reminded that political opinions of the day were just as passionate and rigid as they are now. When Mayor Rolph observed the large number of members of the public who had gathered to speak in opposition to the reenactment of the mask law at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting on January 10, 1919, he began proceedings by saying: “In all fairness, I deem it but right to say that from my knowledge of the situation I know that if arguments take place here until midnight it will not change one vote in this Board. There are enough votes here to pass the masking ordinance to print. I am saying this in order to prevent a lot of useless discussion.” As described above, we see elected leaders making difficult, unpopular decisions and facing public criticism for them. And in yet another reminder of how the past can resemble the present, we learn that Supervisor Power, although he had been excused from the Board of Supervisors meeting on January 17, 1919 to travel to Stockton to greet the “Grizzlies” (the One Hundred and Forty-third Artillery) returning home from the war, was able to attend after all and arrived late, having missed his train to Stockton that morning because of a Municipal Railway delay at Second and Market Streets.  


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ID Theft 101 and New Privacy Laws-Watch the Video Below

ID Theft 101 & New Privacy Laws, Presented by James E. Lee

***Download Presentation PDF Here***
ID Theft 101 & New Privacy Laws
Presented by James E. Lee
Chief Operating Officer 
Identity Theft Resource Center

Watch the January 14, 2021 video above

***Download Presentation PDF Here***

***Download Flyer Here***

ID Theft 101 & New Privacy Laws, A holistic approach: How new privacy & cybersecurity laws address the old problem of identity crimes with James Lee of nonprofit, Identity Theft Resource Center.
Learn more: https://www.idtheftcenter.org/

James E. Lee is the Chief Operating Officer of the ITRC. A data protection and technology veteran, James is the former EVP & Company Secretary of Irish application security company Waratek and former SVP & Chief Marketing Officer for Atlanta-based data pioneer ChoicePoint (now LexisNexis). He also chaired two working groups for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on identity management and privacy. Prior to joining ChoicePoint, James served as a global public affairs and communication executive at International Paper Company (NYSE: IP). He holds academic credentials from the University of Texas School of Information – Center for Identity, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Arkansas


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Covid Rent Debt Video, PDF and Links

Attention and Caution: Because of the rapidly changing nature of Covid Rent Debt issues and laws, the information in this presentation may change due to changes in the law. Please consult an attorney or research your issue for the most up to date information. This presentation was recorded before the law changed with SB91. The presentation slides below contain updated information.

Watch The 1/27 program on Dealing with Covid Rent Debt by Kari Rudd from Bay Area Legal Aid
Wednesday, January 27
Dealing with COVID Rent Debt
Presented by Kari Rudd from Bay Area Legal Aid
This presentation was recorded before the law changed with SB91. These presentation slides contain updated information:
***Dealing With COVID Rent Debt Presentation Slides (Updated and Corrected 2/5/21)***
Attention and Caution: Because of the rapidly changing nature of Covid Rent Debt issues and laws, the information in this presentation may change due to changes in the law. Please consult an attorney or research your issue for the most up to date information.  (see, for example, this article from 1/29/21 about new legislation and CDC action.)

In the video above, you can hear from an attorney about your rights and options for dealing with debt from unpaid rent due to COVID-19. (This presentation does not cover evictions, but focuses on collections and credit reporting issues.) 

View the New! San Francisco Law Library
Quick Guide on Covid Rent Debt
With a summary of the Covid Rent Debt video and more resources.

Helpful information and links:

Bay Area Legal Aid Consumer Rights Clinic:
Thursdays by phone (during pandemic) Call Bay Area Legal Aid’s Advice Line to make an appointment:
1-800-551-5554 (Mon-Thurs, limited hours)

More info at: www.baylegal.org

Eviction protections (more info at baylegal.org)

Other Resources for Tenants Rights Information:

www.housingnowca.org

https://wclp.org/

Other Helpful Links and Organizations:

Also, Bar Association of San Francisco Conflict Intervention Service (CIS) offers fast, flexible help to landlords, tenants, neighbors and housemates, and assistance with rent repayment negotiations.
(415)782-8940, cis@sfbar.org, https://www.sfbar.org/adr-services/cis/


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Free January Virtual Programs

Thursday, January 14, Noon to 1:00pm Pacific (non-MCLE)
ID Theft 101 & New Privacy Laws
Presented by James E. Lee
Chief Operating Officer 
Identity Theft Resource Center
***Download Flyer Here***

Advance-registration required: to receive the program link, Email Name to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org by noon on 1/13/21

ID Theft 101 & New Privacy Laws, A holistic approach: How new privacy & cybersecurity laws address the old problem of identity crimes with James Lee of nonprofit, Identity Theft Resource Center.
Learn more: https://www.idtheftcenter.org/

James E. Lee is the Chief Operating Officer of the ITRC. A data protection and technology veteran, James is the former EVP & Company Secretary of Irish application security company Waratek and former SVP & Chief Marketing Officer for Atlanta-based data pioneer ChoicePoint (now LexisNexis). He also chaired two working groups for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on identity management and privacy. Prior to joining ChoicePoint, James served as a global public affairs and communication executive at International Paper Company (NYSE: IP). He holds academic credentials from the University of Texas School of Information – Center for Identity, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Arkansas

Tuesday, January 19, 2021, Noon to 1:00pm Pacific (Lexis MCLE)
Lexis Virtual MCLE: Understanding Legislation
Presented by Stephan Shields, Lexis Nexis
1 Hour free Participatory CA MCLE Credit¬- 
This is a repeat of the September 30 program
Advance-registration required: to receive CA CLE and program link, Email Name and CA Bar # to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org by Noon on January 18
***Download Flyer Here***

This one-hour program will focus on primary sources vs. secondary sources, sources of the law including statues, regulations, and case law, and exploring what the process of rule-making looks like. Under the principle that a successful compliance associate possesses a foundational knowledge of the different legal information sources and how the work of each governmental branch affects regulatory compliance, are the Learning Objectives, that after completing this course, you will be able to: 

  • Understand the differences between primary and secondary sources of the law
  • Gain familiarity with the different sources of the law—bills/ statutes/ regulations/ ordinances/ administrative guidance— and which branch of the government is responsible for the respective source
  • Understand the mechanism through which the legislative branch passes laws— the legislative life-cycle through which an idea becomes a bill and eventually an Act
  • Understand the mechanism through which the executive branch (government agencies) enforces laws created by the legislative branch—rules and regulations
     

Thursday, January 21, 2021, Noon to 1:00pm (Westlaw MCLE)
Westlaw Virtual MCLE: Advanced Research on Westlaw
Presented by Jonathan Dorsey, Esq.
Client Representative, Government, Thomson Reuters
1 Hour free Participatory MCLE Credit – This is a repeat of the 11/7/19 program
Email name and CA Bar # by noon on 1/20 to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org to receive link 
***Download Flyer Here***
***Download Course Materials Here***

This course will help you refine your search construction using both plain language and terms & connectors, while also showing you tools and resources to help you efficiently complete your research assignment.
 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021, Noon to 1:00pm Pacific (Lexis MCLE)
Lexis Virtual MCLE: Breached! An Inside Look At Cybersecurity For Law Firms
Presented by Stephan Shields, Lexis Nexis
1 Hour free Participatory CA MCLE Credit
This is a repeat of the July 29 and October 28 Programs
Advance-registration required: to receive CA CLE and program link, Email Name and CA Bar # to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org by Noon on 1/25/21
***Download Flyer Here***

With data security incidents and data breaches happening daily, it’s important for the legal world to turn its judges, attorneys, support staff, and interns towards one reality—it’s NOT IF a breach or incident will occur—it’s WHEN.
These incidents are forcing courts and lawmakers to address, define, and handle these new challenges—often presenting a “case of first impression.” However, as technology continues to advance and evolve, so do our professional legal requirements with respect to upholding our duties in advising and zealously advocating for our clients, while also tackling the burden of data security itself.

During this 60-minute CLE session, we will cover (1) the latest security threats in the news and what’s being done to address/remedy them, (2) explore current data breach laws, (3) how a lawyer’s professional duty may extend into new areas of technology and cyberspace, and (4) how to prepare a data incident response plan.

Learning Objectives-After completing this course, you will be able to:
• Know the latest cybersecurity threats the U.S. is facing,
• Understand how to maintain good ‘digital hygiene,’
• Distinguish a “data breach” from a “data incident,”
• What the legal framework surrounding data breaches look like? (GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, GLBA),
• How law firms across the globe have been impacted by security breaches, and
• How to prepare a “data incident response plan” and putting together your own security team
 

Wednesday, January 27, Noon to 1:00pm Pacific (non-MCLE)
Dealing with COVID Rent Debt
Presented by Kari Rudd from Bay Area Legal Aid
***Download Flyer Here***
To RSVP, please email name to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org by noon on 1/26/21

Hear from an attorney about your rights and options for dealing with debt from unpaid rent due to COVID-19. (We will not be covering evictions during this presentation but will be focusing on collections and credit reporting issues.) 
 

Stay informed about upcoming programs and receive E-Updates from the San Francisco Law Library by sending an email to sflawlibrary@sfgov.org with “subscribe” in the subject line.

The San Francisco Law Library is a multiple activity MCLE provider approved by the State Bar of California.