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Reading Assignment:

Steven W. Thrasher. The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll when Inequality and Disease Collide. NY: Celadon Books, 2022, pp. 1-18.    

World Health Organization (WHO). “COVID-19 and the Social Determinants of Health and Health Equity,” October 2021,

Homework Assignment for Week 3 

  • The readings for next week address social inequality in relation to COVID-19 (and health and illness in general). 

The report by the World Health Organization (WHO) offers an overview of how the “social determinants of health” are shaping the spread and effects of COVID around the globe.  The report offers an overview of the scholarly literature focusing on this question. I recommend that as you skim this report and don’t get lost in its details. Pay particular attention to chapter titles and subtitles, which basically lay out the report’s main argument. Do read the introductory section more closely (Part I); then read one or two subsections in each of the other parts and pay attention to the subtitles. 

The chapter by Steven Thrasher is from his new book The Viral Underclass. Thrasher is a professor of journalism who had been studying HIV when the COVID pandemic struck. In the introduction, which I gave you to read, Thrasher discusses his experience starting this book and presents its main argument. 

  • For your homework next week, answer the following questions in 1-2 paragraphs each. Each response should draw directly on a reading, citing the text and including “”, followed by the author and page number in parentheses: (WHO, 2021, p. 5) (Thrasher, 2022, p ?). Each response should also offer your own thoughts in your own words. PLEASE NUMBER YOUR RESPONSES.

1) In its report, the World Health Organizations offers an overview of the relationship between social inequality and vulnerability to COVID, based on available studies conducted in numerous countries. What commonalities exist between the United States and other countries in terms of who is getting infected at disproportionate rates and why? In the report, the WHO makes the argument that “no one is protected unless everyone is protected.” What is the basis of this argument? Do you agree/disagree? Why?

2)In the chapter I gave you to read, what is Steven Thrasher’s main argument? What parallels does he draw between COVID and HIV and why does he make this comparison? 

3)Are there ways in which your own position in society shaped your experience of the COVID pandemic? Draw a connection to the arguments presented in either reading.  

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