Coronavirus Chronicles — Will There Be School?

The thing we cannot overlook is that obesity begets the virus, and the virus begets obesity. Those two intertwined truths are a basic reason to be very concerned with the matter of schooling. At every age level, educational institutions face monumental challenges in this upcoming school year. How are they handling an unprecedented mess? Can schools reopen? Who makes the decisions, and based upon what criteria?

Childhood Obesity News is specifically (but not exclusively) interested in elementary schools in the United States. Like it or not, at the moment, COVID-19 is the lens through which America is forced to look at everything, all day long. When the situation was a certain degree of bad, the schools closed. Is the situation less bad now?

Virus-watchers recently announced that the mortality rate, overall, is not even close to the high percentage that was first posited. And that is a good thing, of course. On the other hand, the implication here is that the environment is full of people who are infected by COVID-19 unawares, because they have no symptoms and don’t feel sick. As far as possible, they carry on with life in habitual ways, including, soon, going back to school, where many more people will be exposed to their exhalations.

The rationale

Some people say, okay. It’s just like an extra-nasty cold, they say, and sometimes not even that. Often, the person never even develops any symptoms, so how bad can it be? Since the risk of death is ostensibly not so spectacular, maybe we should all just go ahead and get it, and be done with it.

This would necessarily mean sacrificing a certain percentage of the population who would be very, very ill, costing the system hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Some would never recover full health again. As Reuters journalist Julie Steenhuysen put it,

While much of the focus has been on the minority of patients who experience severe disease, doctors increasingly are looking to the needs of patients who were not sick enough to require hospitalization, but are still suffering months after first becoming infected.

Some of course would die. But this is what a society must do, certain hard-headed pragmatists would argue. Whether they are shot while wearing a uniform in a foreign land, or whether their beating hearts are excised atop a pyramid, some people must suffer and die for the greater good of all. Of course, doctors are not supposed to think that way, ever. But other kinds of people seem able to justify all kinds of ideas.

What might persuade administrators, teachers, parents, and kids, that opening the schools back up is the right move, and doable? Most obviously, people need their education. The system is: You proceed through the grades in an orderly fashion, and get a job and support yourself. To claim their place in the world, people need knowledge and training, but this closing of schools throws a gigantic monkey wrench into the whole process. There may not be jobs now, but some day there will be again, and people need their certifications.

Kids need time with their peers to grow the appropriate social skills. Psychologically speaking, kids and parents need time apart from each other. Especially considering all the other issues they must deal with, parents are not equipped to teach academic subjects. And not every family has the necessary infrastructure to handle “distance learning.” When the housed population is in so much trouble, we tend to forget about the homeless. But there are still families living six to a room in ramshackle motels.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Scientists just beginning to understand the many health problems caused by COVID-19,”, 06/26/20
Image by Mike Turnauckas/CC BY 2.0

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The Book

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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