Rance Thomas

Since we are facing a rise in the COVID-19 virus in the St. Louis and Metro East areas, we need to follow health experts’ recommendations. These include wearing face masks, maintaining social distance (remaining 6 feet apart), and washing our hands frequently.

However, some individuals are still not following these guidelines. This is even true when they are required to wear masks in order to enter certain stores, such as Schnucks and Walmart. Some wear the masks until they get inside the stores, then they lower them from over their nose and sometimes over both their nose and mouth. Further, some ignore the social distance guidelines as well. 

It is very difficult to understand why they ignore these requirements. However, I am certain that some do not realize that they are not only endangering others but themselves as well. That is, masks not only protect others, but also protect the wearers as well. As a result, it is very difficult to understand their behavior. 

As a sociologist, in analyzing human social behavior it is understandable that some are rebellious and feel that they cannot be told what to do. Others tend to mistakenly believe that they are immune from the virus. Others do not take the virus seriously. 

Some have stated that their freedom or constitutional rights are being taken away. They do not realize that many of our rights have already been taken away for the common good. For example, we cannot drive when we have consumed a certain amount of alcohol, and we are also required by law to wear seat belts. There are many more rights that have been taken away for the public good, including not smoking or carry weapons into certain buildings. Further, we cannot falsely yell “fire” in a theater, and we must have a driver’s license to legally drive a vehicle.

With respect to gathering in large crowds, despite public health warnings, this can be explained by human beings being social and needing contact with others. Those who socialize in large groups in opposition to public health recommendations or mandates find it very difficult to remain isolated for long periods of time. They tend to feel a strong desire to associate with others. We see some examples of this in bars, night clubs, parks, and beaches. 

This is especially true in America, because we feel we have more freedom than individuals in many other countries. Further, many of these other countries demand stricter obedience than we do, and individuals tend to obey authorities. Although, we are the third-largest country in the world, we have by far the largest number of COVID-19 cases and the largest number of deaths from this virus.  

In spite of the loneliness and isolation, we need a national policy demanding that individuals obey these public health guidelines for the common good. These policies must not only be mandated, but they need to be enforced as well. If we do not do this, we will have a very difficult time gaining and maintaining control of this virus. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the situation will only get worse if we do not demand stricter adherence to these guidelines. They tell us the virus infection rate will climb significantly during the fall and winter months when individuals will be forced to stay indoors due to the weather. The transmission of the virus is much easier indoors, where we breathe the same air.

Let us all think about the common good and the safety of ourselves and others.

Rance Thomas was a faculty member in Sociology/Criminal Justice and served as lead faculty/coordinator of Sociology at Lewis and Clark Community College for 30 years. He became the first person in the college's history to be granted the Professor Emeritus Award when he retired in 2002.

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