Coronavirus Chronicles — Does Anecdotal Mean Untrue?

As outlined in the previous post, “Literal and Figurative Orphans,” many thousands of children have lost one or both parents to the coronavirus, as well as other custodial adults or caregivers, and meaningful, influential grownups who affected their wellbeing and the direction of their lives.

What happens when parents come down with a highly contagious disease? They are separated from the kids, possibly hospitalized. What happens to children in such a vulnerable spot? Anxiety, fear, uncertainty, the stress of being dealt with by different adults, and of course the suspicion that they have been abandoned.

Meals may be irregular and unfamiliar. Adults, eager to help but preoccupied with other matters, are apt to be lax about keeping an eye on food intake. Kids are likely to consume too much of all the wrong things. Hello, comfort eating! They are in the ideal situation to do everything that can lead to obesity.

Crank it up a notch

What happens if one parent dies, or both of them? Problems multiply exponentially. Questions of temporary caregiving and permanent custody are on the table. Kids may be removed from familiar surroundings. Grief-stricken adult relatives are in no fit condition to cope, and of course, children are going through their own grief processes. Strange adults from various agencies may show up. Legal matters must be settled. Money, often desperately needed during pandemic times, is likely to be in an even shorter supply.

In short, one goal is to protect children from getting COVID-19, not least because it can set them up for obesity. Another goal is to prevent them from losing their parents, which is a scenario almost guaranteed to create a dismal set of problems, including but not limited to obesity. One thing that does not help is when people spread the disinformation that children can’t get COVID — which, incredibly, some people still do. Another thing that creates havoc is when people spread the disinformation that healthy, youngish adults are somehow magically protected from the virus.

Is anecdotal the same as baloney?

Maybe some people deliberately lie in the other direction, trying to scare the populace into responsible conduct by planting tales of dead relatives in social media. It sounds unlikely, but this is a weird world and almost anything could happen.

But what if even half of the multitude of anonymous reporters are truthful and sincere? One describes a young man of his acquaintance as 29, healthy, unvaccinated, felled by COVID. “It destroyed his lungs, then stopped his heart, then after resuscitation he was on a ventilator til all his systems failed.” Another reports that two family members in Florida died from COVID; then at the funeral, four more relatives caught it and also died. (None had been vaccinated.)

Somebody’s sister needed her gallbladder removed, but could not have surgery until it ruptured and became an emergency, because Texas hospitals were filled with COVID-19 patients. Someone else knows more than one person who had an entire leg amputated, and ended up dying anyway, and another person knows someone who lost all her fingers. Somebody’s mother personally knows nine people who have died from the virus.

Social media is also where you can find such observations as this one, attributed to an anonymous 14-year-old:

It’s strange that people think a vaccine that has helped millions of people will kill them, but a virus that has killed millions of people won’t.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Navy Medicine/Public Domain

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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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