The virus which shall not be named for fear of offending someone presented the United States with a unique inflection point. We were thrust into a position in which we could have fundamentally altered the health of this country. And rather than doing the right thing, the combined government and public health officials collectively shit the bed. Let me explain.
The US population is not generally healthy. We’re fat. We don’t exercise. We eat like crap and massively overconsume the crap that we do eat. Here’s a fun statistic – the United States ranks 46th in life expectancy. 46. Cuba ranks higher than the US. The number one cause of death in the US is heart disease – an almost completely self-induced problem that can be somewhat reversed with diet and exercise when discovered. 700,000 people died of heart disease in 2020. More than any other cause, including covid and cancer.
And what puts you at risk for dying of covid? Age, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and smoking. Way back at the beginnings of this pandemic it seems that the thing to do would be to scream from the rooftops that if you’re fat, out of shape, smoke, or have diabetes this disease is going to kill you. As Dean Vernon Wormer said, “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son”. Wage an all out campaign to inform the population that changing your lifestyle is no longer optional if you want to survive long term. But we didn’t.
Oh sure, there were a few passing mentions of comorbidities putting you at higher risk but we certainly didn’t make a huge deal of it. Instead we opted for punishing everyone. What we should have done was quickly isolate the elderly, keep schools open and keep the economy running. We should have made the central message, broadcast daily, that if you are fat, have the diabetes, hypertension, or smoke you should isolate as much as possible if you want to survive this. Hammer home that folks who are overweight and hypertensive, should they wish to mingle with the public, need to be wearing a properly fitted N95 mask. Not the useless paper ones or that nasty bandana you’ve been wearing for a month without washing. No N95, no vaccination and you will get covid and will probably die. Why are we afraid to tell the truth?
But that’s not what we did. We cratered the economy. We isolated everyone including the young and healthy, prolonging herd immunity. Rather than keeping gyms open and telling people that you need to get outside, exercise, and improve your health if you want to survive… we kept everyone isolated inside. The result? 42% of adults reported gaining weight. How much? An average of 29 pounds.
We gambled on the holy grail of vaccination to magically protect everyone, including those most at risk. There’s no doubt its made a huge difference in moving us more quickly towards herd immunity (since we never let the young and healthy develop natural immunity). But mayors and governors had to start opening up to have any chance of saving their economies. And the vaccine has given those who have risk factors a false sense of security. And sure enough, a more virulent version of covid appeared and now even those who’ve been vaccinated are getting sick. The vaccine isn’t a magic shield. It’s doing what it’s supposed to do. It will dramatically lessen the chances of the infection turning worse. This is why everyone should get the shot, even if you’re “healthy”. It gives you a fighting chance of keeping any symptoms mild and not ending up hospitalized. But if you’re overweight and in poor health… it may not be enough. And that’s exactly what the data shows. The overwhelming majority of people hospitalized and/or dying of covid right now have the classic comorbidities, vaccinated or unvaccinated.
So why are our public health officials not screaming at the top of their lungs about this? Are we afraid of offending people? Are we more worried about “fat shaming” than we are of people dying? For those of us who have the risk factors (and I count myself as one of them), we know what we look like the mirror. I’d rather my self esteem take a hit if it’ll force me to go for a run, than die because someone was afraid of telling me I need to drop a few pounds.
It’s time for health care providers and public health officials to be brutally honest. Stop with the silly mask charade. Form a modern equivalent of the old Presidents Council on Physical Fitness. Since we’re already printing money, how about a tax write-off for gym memberships and exercise equipment? Government subsidies to insurance companies that offer deep discounts on health insurance premiums if you can keep your BMI, blood pressure, and A1C at or below healthy limits?
Crazy talk, I know. But sadly we’d rather pit citizens against each other and ostracize folks from participating in society if you don’t take the jab. We’re scolded like little children, being told that “patience is wearing thin” and “this isn’t about freedom”. Officials are afraid to talk about natural immunity from covid because it might detract from their only message – 100% of citizens must have the vaccine, no exceptions.
Covid is going to turn endemic at some point. I think you’re foolish not to get the vaccine, but that’s your personal choice to make. We are all going to get Covid eventually, that’s a certainty. The only question will be how many factors do you have going in your favor when you do get it? Personally, I want to have had the vaccine and I want my weight, blood pressure, and A1C to be the best I can get ’em given my age. I’m just as guilty as the next person of being lazy about that. Not anymore. I’m enjoying life too much right now to lose it because I couldn’t put down the nachos.
Clearly the government isn’t going to do the right thing for its citizens. It’s up to you. So as Inspector Harry Callahan famously said, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”
P.S. The title has nothing to do with anything. I saw it on the internet and loved it, but couldn’t think of anything to relate it to.