[3/16/20] – Sociology of COVID-19, Part 1

Wow…what a difference a week makes. This time last week several schools were considering closing. New infections were increasing, but only in small areas of the United States (and just off the coast on a cruise ship). But people were still going to work. Ordinary life as we knew it was stable. Today, we are looking at a very different situation. Society as we have grown accustomed to it on a massive scale is disrupted. Major social institutions are changing overnight in terms of their scope and activities. Interactions are limited through the encouraged (at the moment) practice of social distancing. From a sociological perspective, this is one of the more interesting experiences of the 21st century. It is unique in so far as everyone is a potential victim and social forces create opportunities for advantage and disadvantage. This week we begin what will likely be a series of posts relative to the social effects of the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak in the world. On a final note, I sincerely hope this message finds you well and safe.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Sociology of COVID-19, Part 1

Learning Objectives

LO1: Discuss the sociological implications of the COVID-19 pandemic including the spread of the virus and responses to the outbreak in communities.

LO2: Explain how one’s social identity (e.g., race, age, sexuality, gender, social class, etc.) create opportunities for advantage and disadvantage.

LO3: Explain why abrupt changes in society create opportunities for social change to occur more rapidly.


Understanding isolation, quarantine, and social distancing in the coronavirus era

As the coronavirus continues to spread, phrases like “quarantine,” “isolation,” and “social distancing” are making news. Here are the key differences and criteria for each.

Coronavirus Fears Stoke Panic Shopping

Stores are jammed with frenzied shoppers all over the Bay Area. What really explains the panic buying, given the virus isn’t shutting down the stores? Andria Borba asked and got answers.

New York launches drive-thru testing site for COVID-19

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has deployed the National Guard and created a one-mile containment zone around the town of New Rochelle, just north of New York City, where at least 158 cases of COVID-19 have been reported. And on Friday, the state launched its first drive-thru mobile testing facility in the region. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker has more.

Coronavirus: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

As coronavirus spreads to the US, John Oliver discusses what’s being done to fight the illness, what’s gone wrong, and how to stay safe.

Discussion Questions

What are the most significant changes to the social order that you have observed lately? Why are they significant to you? How are your social interactions different today from a week ago? What are you doing differently and similarly in terms of creating social distance?

How does the age of the individual influence their response? How might the lived experience of enduring crisis (e.g., WWII, Hurricane Katrina, Polio, etc.) influence the response of an individual? Why might some people new to crisis be more prone to more anxious reactions?

How do you imagine the lived experience of being homeless during an epidemiological crisis? What resources need to be available for these vulnerable populations? Why might powerful forces like the government and economy be reluctant to help these people? Explain.

What are the differences between learning online and in a face-to-face format? Why might some students adapt, and others struggle to connect with the technology now necessary for education? What do colleges need to do to best support teachers and students during this time?

How does lack of access to resources influences one’s chances for survival during this time? Why might some people be prone to violence when competing for these resources? Where is the line between anomie and anarchy? What keeps people living their life and not resorting to chaos?


_______ is the practice of actively limiting interactions with other human beings that is often employed during pandemic situations.
a. social limiting
b. social distancing
c. social isolation syndrome
d. social removal

Which of the following social factors does NOT have an influence on the opportunities for advantage and disadvantage relative to surviving a pandemic?
a. race
b. age
c. religion
d. gender
e. social class
f. ability
g. None of the above…all parts of one’s identity influence their chances for survival

Rapid shifts in social norms and order like those we are presently experiencing cause a state of disorientation known to sociologists as _______ where people become aware of the absence of familiar social norms and react accordingly.
a. deviance
b. stratification
c. psychosis
d. anomie

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/BlackJack3D

Leave a Reply