Untimely Solutions Won't Solve COVID
America Obesity Problem is Fueling COVID, But There's No Quick Fix for COVID...Also Joy Reid's Badly Timed Argument
There’s been a question online raised by many on the right, “Given that the overweight are more likely to have negative COVID outcomes, shouldn’t the government be doing something to lower obesity?” Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Crazytown) made the point and it seems to have picked up popularity online in recent months.
There’s a certain superficial logic to it, and truly if the nation could get obesity down quickly, it would do much to limit the outcomes of COVID. But there are multiple problems to it beginning with the bad faith intention of it. It’s a ham-fisted attempt to shift the national discourse from whether people are getting vaccinated and to thus protect the GOP base from attack.
The problem is that reducing obesity is the equivalent of fire prevention. That does little good when the fire is raging. It’s as if one is standing in a city where buildings all around you are on fire and you say, “You know at the next legislative session, they ought to pass a bill to help people get tax credits to get their buildings up to code.” You might have a legitimate point, but that does little to address the fire around you.
There is no obesity vaccine. The causes of obesity are complex and the solutions are elusive. On the individual level, they’re physical, psychological, and hereditary reasons for obesity. In addition, they’re often fueled by societal issues and governmental issues. Growing up in a part of the country where only junk food is affordable is a factor. The growing number of Americans working sedentary jobs thanks to technological advances is a factor. In fact, the Federal Government contributes to this by subsidizing (and thus keeping at a low price) foods that fuel the crisis. You’re not going to solve this on a systemic level to stop COVID-19 while the epidemic is raging.
The other problem is that this assumes that the government’s not done anything about obesity.
If only we had a Presidential Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. Oh wait, we do.
What if we had the government educate people on proper nutrition? We do have that. Of course, most of that information has been majorly off-base but still….
What if we had a First Lady who dedicated her entire tenure to raising awareness and fighting obesity? We did. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign was focused on fighting childhood obesity and she got pilloried for it. Some of this criticism was worthwhile (such as her efforts leading to inedible school lunches being pushed on kids,) but there was not a Republican counterpoint or a willingness to deal with the crisis or offer a conservative solution.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (before he discovered the key to fame and fortune on the right was singing Trump’s praises and giving the base red meat at the pace of a Golden Corral employee on-speed working the roast beef station) used to talk about obesity without proposing any sort of compulsive action from the government and was labeled a “nanny-stater.”
There are policies that might reduce obesity long-term. For example, many businesses reward their employees with food and recognition lunches as opposed to giving them a nice gift card. Why? Because cash, gift cards, and tangible goods that employees might prefer over a trip to Olive Garden create a major headache and end up with weird tax impacts for the employee and employer. The government could allow employees to receive a certain amount of gift cards or goods for promotions without having to pay tax on them. Of course, that’s not going to do anything about COVID, particularly with so many offices still remote.
Of course, if you want to reduce obesity to fight COVID-19, there are things you could do if a court would let you get away with it. These possible solutions would be obscene but might be effective. You could take everyone above a certain BMI and putt them in a government-funded adult fat farm run by Jillian Michaels, or allow fat people to stay home but have the government order their groceries to ensure a strict diet is followed and require them to do an hour video cross-fit class six days a week led by Congresswoman Greene. This would be the type of program that could lead to a reduction in obesity that could impact susceptibility to COVID. It’d also be the type of program that would make a vaccine passport look non-intrusive and Australia’s lockdowns look like the equivalent of side hugs.
Anti-vaxxers haven’t laid out a specific proposal like that. But there are no specific proposals, just an attempt to change the subject. Don’t expect these folks to be talking about obesity when COVID-19 has become endemic.
The idea of COVID-19 becoming endemic like the flu or cold is another message that has been true and will be true, but right now makes little sense.
The message, “Get the vaccine, put away your mask, and go live your normal life,” made all kinds of sense in May, June, and into July when daily COVID deaths were in the low hundreds and cases were at about 10,000-20,000 per day.
It makes a whole lot sense in a prescriptive way when we’re dealing with 2,000 COVID deaths a day and more than 100,000 cases per day. The average person says, “So we need to get used to 730,000 people per year dying and hospitals being full?”
Some voices in conservative media don’t want to be like the CDC and FDA who they’ve attacked for shifting guidance and stances. Conservative media figures will remain firm on pandemic advice and not let something like a pesky new variant and rising case loads and death lead them to changing their mind.
This doesn’t mean that lockdowns are a solution or that government-mandated general indoor (and certaintly not outdoor) mask mandates are going to help. But preacautions can be called for in certain instances, and that many people will take additional precautions based on their own unique circumstances and your opinion that they need to “get back normal” is really irrelevant. There is no “normal” when hospitals are overflowing and thousands are dying each day from an easily preventable disease.
There’s a new model that projects COVID numbers are going to drop by Spring with cases plunging into the low five digits and death’s dropped to fifty per day by March. From their model to God’s ears. However, I’m certainly skeptical it’ll work out that way. Whether that model proves to be true or not, this is eventually going to happen. At some point, enough people will have obtained immunity from the virus through infection and vaccination, that there will be nothing “novel” about COVID-19 anymore. New cases will decline as will deaths. Eventually, COVID will become yet another seasonal illness like the flu, though probably a bit more deadly for a few years.
That’d be a good time for the pundits to dust off their “COVID is endemic” articles, maybe update them based on the actual facts on the ground. That’s also when it’s going to be a great idea to figure out a serious strategy for dealing with obesity long-term. Although given the lack of seriousness of our political leaders, my instinct say, “Fat chance” to the odds of that actually happening.
Wrong Time, Wrong Way to Approach “Missing White Syndrome”
MSNBC News host Joy Reid attacked the media focus on the disappearance and subsequent murder of Gabby Petito as an example of “missing white woman syndrome.”
There have been many takes on Reid’s attack. I don’t think she’s wrong about missing white women receiving more media attention than missing non-white women.
However, the problem with pointing out right now is that sor of statement is intrinsicly dismissive and insensitive towards Petito’s death. She was a human being with real friends and real family who are grieving and wanting justice. To say that other deaths also deserve coverage doesn’t mean that her death and the hunt for her killer deserve less coverage. And the timing of Reid’s argument clearly implies that.
A better way for Reid to have addressed this is to let the story pass and then when a case of missing non-White woman that should get national attention came up, she could go on her program, make the case, point out the media coverage of the recent Petitot case and demand why this new case isn’t getting the same coverage. She might also call on some of the people at her own network that do more hard news and light a fire under them to get more coverage.
However, that would require work and actual journalism. Not really Reid’s thing. Maybe Reid and her producer also believe the sort of financial incentives that drive the “missing white women” phenomena: that a missing white woman story will drive ratings but not so with a missing non-white woman. So even the criticism of the coverage of “missing white women” has to be tied to the coverage itself to get ratings.
Whatever the case, Reid chose to take a cheapshot, not try to do anything to address the problem she complained about, collect her paycheck, and move on. How typical of the media in the 2020s.