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Why some are defying social distancing guidelines: ‘We don’t want to be told what to do’

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NEW YORK -- Social distancing rules are meant to help stop the spread of COVID-19, so why are some people unwilling to follow them? A clinical psychologist offered some insight.

"Be responsible -- because the life you risk may not be your own," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

With the days and weeks dragging on amid the coronavirus pandemic, and social distancing becoming more of a way of life than a new age concept, so have the calls from public officials like Governor Cuomo for every citizen to do his or her part to help flatten the curve.

"If anything, we have to get more diligent, not less diligent," said Governor Cuomo.

Yet, it seems some people don't seem to get it. Either they don't, or they won't.

"We are social animals," said Dr. Jeff Gardere, professor at Touro College. "This is why we have been able to survive the planet."

Dr. Gardere said part of the defiance of social distancing is that it's antithetical to how we were raised, and how we survived every other crisis in recent history.

"What have we been told? Go out and live your lives," said Dr. Gardere. "Show that terrorist, show that enemy that they can't change your life. You know, get on a plane, go eat at restaurants, show your courage in that way, but the rules have changed completely."

The rules have some in a state of denial, while others believe they simply don't apply to them -- and then there's the sheer defiance in the face of adversity.

"We don't want to be told what to do," Dr. Gardere. "There's a belligerence in that kind of independence. "

The last time a major academic journal studied self-isolation was during the SARS and Ebola outbreaks in 2009 and 2010. The Journal Lancet is looking into the long-term psychological implications of COVID-19.

"I definitely think this is going to trigger a lot of post-traumatic stress reactions, depression, anxiety, nightmares, avoiding situations that remind us of the trauma of COVID-19," said Dr. Gardere.

During the Easter season, we're used to meeting with family, closer than six feet apart, and for longer than a 15-minute walk, but for now, we should all be grateful for the ability to connect virtually.

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