[3/23/20] – Sociology of COVID-19, Part 2

As States across the nation begin to enact “shelter in place” orders intended to increase opportunities for social distancing. Workers who, only a month ago, were taken for granted are now the front line of defense in terms of survival of humans seeking food and other resources. Citizens are settling in for at least a few weeks of social isolation. Interestingly, social life as we know it is undergoing a reevaluation of the value of certain social statuses. In the coming week millions of Americans will find themselves at the end of their resources. 40% of Americans do not have $400 to survive an emergency. This week we are focusing on those whose labor is displaced and those whose labor has changed in value as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We additionally discuss the potential implications for social change in terms of our labor force moving forward.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for Sociology of COVID-19, Part 2

Learning Objectives

LO1: Discuss how social disorder forces cultures to reevaluate the hierarchical order, especially as it relates to the workforce.

LO2: Evaluate the strength of arguments for and against a universal base income in the United States.

LO3: Explain why sociology is critical to understanding the total effects of the COVID-19 outbreak on our economy.


Outbreak drives demand for food delivery at home

The coronavirus outbreak is boosting demand for home delivery of meals and groceries as more consumers try to avoid crowded stores and restaurants and risk exposure to COVID-19. (March 17)

COVID-19 Causes A Spike In Unemployment Claims

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov report those are finding themselves suddenly unemployed because of the coronavirus are wasting no time to apply for unemployment benefits.

Grocery stores make changes amid COVID-19 pandemic

How Californians shop for food and basic essentials is changing everyday as grocery stores update their policies and procedures in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Grocery store employees, who are on the essential workers list, are still showing up for work around the county. In a move to reward its employees, for helping keep the food supply chain flowing, Safeway announced it is temporarily giving all of its workers a considerable raise effective as of last Sunday.

Discussion Questions

What parts of the workforce will be most and least impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak? How will the workforce change as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak? What should the response be from the federal government?

From a conflict perspective, what are the communities that will likely be the hardest hit by the economic toll of the COVID-19 outbreak? What social change is necessary to accommodate support for this group? What barriers might this change face, and why?

What would you do with $2000 a month from the federal government just for being alive and staying out of jail? What do you think most Americans would do with this amount of money? Would a Universal Base Income drive Americans to the couch or into a place of creativity?

How can the sudden disappearance of work impact a household? How might this experience of joblessness be influenced by issues of social class, race, and gender? What groups are most likely to recover? What groups are most likely to not?

How will the COVID-19 outbreak influence social attitudes towards food delivery workers, and other groups we’ve come to take for granted? Why are some States declaring these folks to be emergency responders? Is this a worthy designation? Why or why not?


Which of the following questions would a sociologist be most interested in investigating?
a. How much money will the federal government give to banks as a result of the economic situation caused by COVID-19 outbreak?
b. What parts of the supply chain are most necessary to bring supplies to stores?
c. What is the lived experience of being a food delivery worker during the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States?
d. Why do we have so few producers of respirators?

One of the effects of _______ is that people are not going to stores and instead are relying heavily on the support of food delivery workers to survive the COVID-19 outbreak.
a. Social distancing
b. Social regulation
c. Social deviance
d. Social absence

A _______ would be most interested in investigating how the experience of enduring the COVID-19 outbreak will fundamentally change how we interact with food delivery workers.
a. Functionalist
b. Conflict Theorists
c. Rational Choice Theorist
d. Symbolic-Interactionist

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Diy13

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