[11/16/20] – COVID-19: The Second Wave

Over 40 states reported the highest rates of COVID-19 infection since the pandemic reached the shores of the United States in January 2020. Epidemiologists worry about the coming months in the face of a daily infection rate of over 100,000 cases, hospitalizations growing at a rate that will soon consume this vital resource, and COVID-19-related deaths at an all-time high. At the same time, we are headed into the holiday season where travel and large gatherings are the norm in American society. Some claim the rise in cases is related to “pandemic fatigue” experienced as a result of lacking social interaction and associated trauma related to the experience of prolonged restrictions on movement, interactions, and use of PPE. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we explore the global pandemic in the world’s most active hotspot, the United States, from a sociological lens to better understand the macro and micro-level factors contributing to the rampant rates of infection across the country. Specifically, we examine the issue using the lens of anomie, lifestyle behaviors, and the American ideology of individual liberties.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for COVID-19: The Second Wave

Learning Objectives

LO1: Explain how the rise in COVID-19 infection rates is driven by both individual and institutional level factors.

LO2: Discuss the important of addressing anomie as a primary cause of the increasing infection rates across the nation.

LO3: Compare arguments for and against a stimulus plan to offset the negative consequences of decreased income associated with unemployment related to the pandemic.


Dr. Anthony Fauci says US in ‘very difficult situation’ as Covid infections continue to grow

America’s top infectious disease expert says the country faces a ‘very difficult situation’ as Covid-19 cases continue to surge. The US surpassed one million cases in the first 10 days of November as the overall coronavirus death toll reached 241,910. Fauci warned more needs to be done to control the spread of the virus, suggesting public health measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing, not lockdowns, would halt the spread.

Covid-19 in the US: 45 of 50 states heading in wrong direction

Across the US, 45 states are reporting an increase of cases above 10% compared to last week, which has brought the national total to more than 10.9 million cases and 245,600 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. CNN’s John King reports.

Covid vaccine: what does the Pfizer vaccine news mean? – BBC News

There has been some promising Covid-19 vaccine news. A preliminary analysis shows the first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19. But there’s still a way to go before any vaccine can be given to the wider public and our lives can go back to how they were pre-pandemic. BBC health correspondent Laura Foster helps puts this news into context. Video by Laura Foster and Terry Saunders.

Discussion Questions

Why might someone decline to wear a facemask when it is scientifically shown to reduce transmission of COVID-19? Why are some people reluctant to trust “authorities” on issues of health and illness? What is the role of trust in gaining buy-in from civilians to participate in measures intended to protect individuals and others?

Why might some people be open to the idea of letting down their guard and allowing others into their home, even in the face of growing cases? What social factors contribute to the growing apathy toward social austerity measures intended to curtail the prevalence and trajectory of COVID-19 infections? How might the thought of an available vaccine increase of decrease infection rates? How might Thanksgiving and college students returning home influence rates?

How might the experience of social isolation cause some to feel a sense of disconnection from reality? How might this disconnection from reality result in responses to the changing norms in ways that might deviate from what is socially expected of them? How do factors like race, gender, and social class causes different opportunities for advantage and disadvantage for people to escape the restrictions imposed by health and government officials?

What needs to be done to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the United States? What attitudes and behaviors need to be changed? How can the agents of socialization be operationalized to facilitate these changing ideologies? What obstacles might prevent the slowing of infection rates? What is needed at the individual level and what is needed at the institutional level to end the spread of COVID-19 in the United States?

How might the availability of a stimulus package increase or decrease COVID-19 infection rates? How do you imagine the experience of enduring the pandemic as a family of elites as compared to a family living in poverty? How does the myth of the meritocracy work to convince the American public that the deaths of poor people are more justified than those of elites?


The term _______ refers to a combination of traits that embody individualism and deference to government that sociologists might claim is responsible for lack of adherence to COVID-19 safety protocol such as mask wearing for some groups.
a. Rugged Individualism
b. Deviant Mindset
c. Critical Fatigue
d. Autocrat

Some Americans are experience a sense of ________, a response to social isolation associated with the pandemic that causes one to question their current reality and need for adherence to existing social norms.
a. Identity Peril
b. Stigma
c. Anomie
d. Social Entitlement

A _______ sociologist would likely focus their attention on investigating how social institutions are responding to the COVID-19 crisis in the United States whereas a _______ sociologist would likely focus on individual experiences of health preservation and/or illness endured.
a. Primary; Secondary
b. Manifest; Latent
c. Modern; Post-Modern
d. Macro; Micro

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/ZStockPhotos

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