Letter: Obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19, not race

The U.S. Government has declared that being black is a risk factor for COVID-19. This rationale is being used to give black people priority in COVID-19 assistance, vaccines, and treatments. Statisticians caution that correlation is not causation. The data shows that the black population has a 44% higher chance of dying from COVID-19 than the white population. This is almost identical to the 47% higher chance of obesity in blacks versus the white population. A better analysis of the data should be that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19 shared equally by white and black people. Government should give extra help to the obese population without regard to race instead of giving extra help based upon race.

The data:

        Deaths per 100,000 black people is 178.

        Deaths per 100,000 white people is 124.

        A black person is 44% more likely to die from COVID-19 than a white person.

100*(178-124)/124 = 44%

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        Obesity for black people is 42%.

        Obesity for white people is 28.6%

A black person is 47% more likely to be obese than a white person.

100*(42-28.6)/28.6 = 47%

Tony Barr,


Carol Swain blasts FDA guidance on race-based COVID treatment

“Harkens back to an America we all rejected”

Body Mass Index and Risk for COVID-19–Related …

“These findings highlight clinical and public health implications of higher BMIs, including the need for intensive management of COVID-19–associated illness, continued vaccine prioritization and masking, and policies to support healthy behaviors.”

Correlation is not causation is a truism that statisticians are always concerned about.

New Hampshire prioritized non-White individuals for COVID-19 vaccines: federal complaint

“The complaint demands HHS cease funding of both the state and the public health council until it receives written assurances that they won’t discriminate on the basis of race.”

Obesity rates for adults in the United States in 2020, by ethnicity

Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19 | Overweight & Obesity | CDC

The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com.

  • Good points, of course. But we wouldn’t want our public health officials to suddenly start giving relevant advice that might actually help people, rather than nonsensical statements that only serve to increase fear and dependence, would we?
    Excuse the sarcasm. I just don’t see them starting to give worthwhile information when they’ve had two years and have failed utterly…

  • Thanks for this well-researched presentation of a taboo topic. Sadly, try giving a recommendation to an individual about personal actions to improve health. It is not socially or politically correct for individuals or governments. Think of the hit to health industry profits (and contributions to politicians) if people need fewer prescriptions and to the social security fund if average lifespans rise.

    • Dr. Carol Swain: It harkens back to an America that we all rejected with the civil rights movement, and that would be the America that discriminated against people because of the color of their skin, the color of one’s skin, their race, their sex. These are immutable characteristics. They cannot be changed. People are born that way, and the whole idea that government-sponsored discrimination would return with a vengeance in 2021 2022. I think it’s a backward step for our nation. We should all reject it.

  • Food stamps should not be allowed to be spent
    On junk food like potatoe chips & soda…case solved.
    Just milk, bread, cheese, oatmeal, meat….no processed
    Foods, no filet mignon or lobster either…

  • Ironically, it is the color of their skin as well as obesity that is problematic. People with more melanin have a hard time getting enough vitamin D from exposure to the sun. A deficit in vitamin D is linked intimately with survival/death rates for Covid.

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