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,


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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.

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

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

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