Coronavirus Chronicles — Three Plagues

In America, racial issues have been present for centuries. The intensity of the conflict waxes and wanes, but it is always present in some degree. In the past few weeks, thanks to the deplorable actions of some backward-looking and seriously malicious individuals and groups, race consciousness and animosity have spiked.

Obesity, on the other hand, does not have a jagged up-and-down graph, it just continues to go up and up. Also, defying our preference to ignore or forget COVID-19, it is still around, casting its ugly shadow on every aspect of our lives. Despite loose talk of an impending “second wave,” it is clear that the country is still in the midst of the first wave. Sheer desperate denial does nothing to improve any of these realities, and they have teamed up in an increasingly threatening partnership.

Born into risk

African Americans, Latinx Americans, Pacific Islanders, and some other minority groups have very unfortunate genetic foundations on which to build their health houses. They are prone to obesity and endangered by all the co-morbidities that come along with obesity. Black and (to a lesser extent) Hispanic Americans are more apt to become victims of the virus. Lockdowns are undertaken for the public safety, to decrease the spread of the virus, but the enforced immobility encourages obesity to flourish.

And to complete the circle of hellish consequence, obese people have a worse experience with the illness. Against minority-group Americans, obesity and COVID-19 work like tag-team wrestlers. Journalist Maitefa Angaza covers the many contributing societal factors — income inequality, disparities in levels of health care, racism, and now a pandemic disease — and a heritage of obesity that causes, or worsens, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers.

Of course obesity is, to a certain extent, a modifiable risk factor. But as Angaza remarks, “When the stress piles on, most people tend to overeat.” She elaborates on the theme:

Childhood obesity is at record levels, with Black students about 65 percent more likely to be obese than white students… Weight control can no longer be seen as an avoidable nuisance; COVID-19 has made that clear. Obesity often makes the difference between those who survive the coronavirus and those who succumb, because the severity of the virus’ impact is heightened by obesity’s pre-existing illnesses.

It is no different in Great Britain, where the acronym BAME stands for “black, Asian, and minority ethnic.” For, Nicholas Feenie notes that even in the midst of tons of intimidating statistics, “perhaps the most shocking are the numbers of people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who have died from Covid-19.”

This includes doctors and other health care professionals from those vulnerable ethnic groups, who are among the first to succumb to the contagion, and disproportionately likely to die from it. Between the fatality rates of people from these backgrounds and white people, the disparities are blatant and shocking.

Just a few days ago, when the American death toll had reached 112,000, APM Research Lab published some alarming American statistics, expressed in several different ways:

Collectively, Black Americans represent 12.4% of the population in the U.S., but they have suffered 24.3% of known COVID-19 deaths — i.e., they are dying at twice their population share.

White Americans represent 62.2% of the population in the U.S., but they have experienced 51.7% of deaths.

Collectively, Indigenous, Asian and Latino Americans are dying roughly proportional to their population share.

1 in 1,625 Black Americans has died (or 61.6 deaths per 100,000)
1 in 2,775 Indigenous Americans has died (or 36.0 deaths per 100,000)
1 in 3,550 Latino Americans has died (or 28.2 deaths per 100,000)
1 in 3,800 Asian Americans has died (or 26.3 deaths per 100,000)
1 in 3,800 White Americans has died (or 26.2 deaths per 100,000)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Black Obesity Epidemic and Coronavirus,”, May 2020
Source: “Covid-19, Obesity, BAME… and Vitamin D,”, 05/06/20
Source: “The Color of Coronavirus,”, 06/10/20
Image by muffinn/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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