Long before COVID-19 hit, obesity has been one the biggest killers of Americans.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, as science was constantly shifting and new information was being learned about the virus almost daily, it was known in the beginning that obesity was one of the biggest risk factors for severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser, and the country’s public face for COVID-19 guidance has said since the beginning that: “It’s so clear that the overwhelming weight of serious disease and mortality is on those who are elderly and those with a serious comorbidity: heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory difficulties.”
Despite being aware of the risks associated with obesity and COVID-19 for the entirety of the pandemic, very little has been said about Americans losing weight in order to fight the pandemic. Although losing weight won’t stop the virus, it could effectively reduce the risk of complication and death, so if COVID-19 is going to be around forever, as Fauci is now saying, why isn’t weight loss emphasized more?
Fauci has said that obesity is a big, problem, he explained in an interview with Hugh Hewitt in March 2021 why obese people are at higher risk. Not only do they tend to have more underlying medical issues, but they physically have a harder time breathing as it is, he said.
In 2020 Fauci also suggested that a strategy to defeat the virus through herd immunity was “unacceptable” partly because America has so many overweight people that untold numbers might die: “If you look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people with diabetes, if everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable.”
The doctor has never explicitly told people to lose weight, though, in one interview he said three ways to improve the immune system are getting better sleep, having a nutritious diet, and getting more sun. In giving his own list of do’s and don’ts to stay safe post-vaccination, he made no mention of maintaining a healthy weight.
New research from Johns Hopkins University found that 56% of Americans between the ages of 18-25 are now overweight or obese. The obesity rate was 42.4% in all adults in 2017-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Americans gained weight during lockdowns last year, and data has since come out showing that childhood obesity has increased since the pandemic began.
The statistics are sobering. In the early weeks of the pandemic, at least half of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were obese. Earlier this year, a CDC study found that nearly four-in-five hospitalized patients were overweight or obese. Various analyses have directly linked the obesity rate to more serious COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates at a national level, however, America’s leading public health officials seem to be avoiding telling Americans to shed some weight to defend against the pandemic.