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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans suffer from high levels of obesity — a disease that has made us more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If the U.S. is going to make itself more resilient to the coronavirus, as well as other deadly health conditions, some experts argue we need to rethink the food system that has helped leave too many people dangerously overweight.

By the numbers: 42.4% of American adults had obesity as of 2018, up from 30.5% in 2000.

  • A recent meta-analysis found people with obesity who contracted COVID-19 were 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to end up in the hospital, 74% more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 48% more likely to die.

What they're saying: "It's clear that COVID-19 is connected to food," Nancy Roman, CEO of Michelle Obama's nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), told Axios.

Still, Roman does see some positive shifts brought about by the pandemic, including the rapid growth of online grocery delivery.

  • 45 states are participating in a USDA pilot program that allows people to use their food stamp benefits for online grocery purchases, which could help the more than 23 million Americans who live in food deserts find healthier produce.
  • But Roman worries the shift to online buying will leave some Americans vulnerable to targeted ads for unhealthy food. "A person of means who likes to have a kale smoothie would be optimized for it, but a low-income person eating at McDonalds or Popeyes would be optimized for that," she says.

Of note: In May, PHA launched its COVID-19 Fresh Food Fund in Denver, working with the city and other partners to provide 600,000 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables over the following three months, with plans for another 1.2 million servings through the next six months.

The bottom line: COVID-19 and obesity represent a pandemic on top of an epidemic, and they both deserve attention.

Go deeper

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."