Coronavirus Chronicles — This Moment in History

The final month of 2020 is nobody’s idea of a good time. As we have extensively pointed out, just about anything that’s good for COVID-19 is indirectly good for obesity, and vice versa. Obesity and the virus are like comic book villains, evil twins who spur each other on to ever-intensifying malice, and who always have each other’s backs. Consequently, the virus takes up a lot of attention. It refuses to settle down into a stodgy, reliable entity but continues to adapt and invent. It always pulls another surprise from its pocket.

Who put the “mission” in transmission?

Or maybe it’s just that the humans are kind of backward. We think we know something about how the virus jumps from one victim to another, and why. And then, the things we think we know turn out to be as quaintly superstitious as hanging a horseshoe above a house door to bring good luck.

For instance, most Americans seem to have accepted certain levels of mealtime fraternization within walls. A lot of people took the “pod” concept and ran with it. Rather than holding every pod member to strict rules of the association, people seem to have redefined their pod as “anyone I’m related to or friendly with.” People seem to have actually convinced themselves that the virus will respect their definitions, and not let itself be carried around by anyone who is within their circle of relatives and friends. This delusion, paired with current statistics, explains a lot.

Earnest efforts

Some restaurants have erected outdoor enclosures, huts or tents that are hard to distinguish from homeless encampments, and are probably no more healthful, coronavirus-wise. Or they set up concrete barriers, and the customers eat at tables adjacent to passing traffic.

Many, many more have initiated distancing rules, and fiddled with their HVAC systems, in order to let diners sit indoors. Plenty of people always thought this was okay, and many still do. But new evidence has come in, and many experts believe that indoor restaurant dining is one of the riskiest activities a human being can engage in, in this day and age.

Reportedly, an unimaginably small moisture droplet, capable of carrying a viral load, is also able to travel 20 feet through the atmosphere. For instance, from one person to another, even when the distance between them is more than three times the currently recommended six-foot safety zone.

Another illusion shattered

In a very fresh article, Victoria Kim explains for non-scientists some startling events. Proving once again that the young are by no means immune to the disease, a high school student caught it “after five minutes of exposure from more than 20 feet away.”

The epidemiologists were not just theorizing about the gravity of the situation. The surveillance video footage is decisively clear. The virus carrier and the girl who caught it were far apart. They touched none of the same objects or surfaces, and they never spoke. Another person in the room also became infected. South Korea’s “meticulous and often invasive contact tracing regime” annoys those who cherish possibly spurious freedom above life, but it gets the detective job done. Kim found reports of similar cases, such as…

[…] a July study out of Guangzhou, China, which looked at infections among three families who dined at a restaurant along the flow of air conditioning at tables that were three feet apart, overlapping for about an hour. Ten of the diners tested positive for the coronavirus. Contact tracers in South Korea similarly mapped out a large outbreak at a Starbucks in Paju in August, when 27 people were infected by a woman sitting under a second-floor ceiling air conditioning unit.

This revised estimate of dangerous proximity, if the world takes it seriously, could change a lot of things, including the possibility of schools ever opening again.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Infected after 5 minutes, from 20 feet away: South Korea study shows coronavirus’ spread indoors,”, 12/09/20
Image by Elvert Barnes/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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