President Harry Truman spoke frequently about the need for a national mobilization against polio. But what he meant by this was to rally people to be cautious, follow medical guidelines, isolate the infected, and get the medical community inspired to find means of treatment and cure.
Though there was no cure, and no vaccine, there was a long incubation period before symptoms would reveal themselves, and while there was a great deal of confusion about how it was transmitted, the thought of locking down an entire state, nation, or world was inconceivable. The concept of a universal “shelter in place” order was nowhere imaginable. Efforts to impose “social distancing” were selective and voluntary.
In an earlier 1937 outbreak in Chicago, for example, the superintendent of schools (not the mayor or governor) closed the public schools for three weeks and encouraged learning from home. In many localities, when there was an outbreak and depending on the level of fear, bowling alleys and movie theaters were closed, but not by force). Church services were cancelled sporadically, but not by force. The churches themselves were never shuttered.No Lockdowns: The Terrifying Polio Pandemic of 1949-52 by Jeffrey A. Tucker
Or, how truly dangerous plagues are handled by people with some understanding of liberty.