Are we ignoring what the virus shows?

Published 12:29 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

Larry McDermott

Life on the farm

The pandemic has revealed a lot about us. Much of it is humorous, thank goodness, but some is disturbingly sad.

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Humor first.

What does it say about people that they can’t figure out how to wear a face mask? Are they thinking that the virus bugs won’t go up their noses, so they use the mask to cover only their mouths? And what could someone be thinking when they are walking around in public with the mask covering only their throat?

There have been doctor shows on television since City Hospital began airing in 1951. You would think that in nearly 70 years people would have noticed how masks are worn.

We’ve been wearing masks on the farm for years when doing work such as mowing, weed eating, dragging pastures, burning brush piles, soil work or cleaning out the chicken coop. If it doesn’t cover both your nose and your mouth, it doesn’t work.

More seriously, Covid-19 has shown that some people are at a higher risk for not recovering from the disease. People over the age of 60 and people with underlying medical conditions are the highest risk.

Try as we might, we can’t do a darn thing about our age. It is what it is.

Many, but not all, of the underlying medical conditions exist because we have made poor choices. Cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and some cancers make up the majority.

Most of our poor choices causing these conditions include what and how much we eat, and how we move our bodies. If you are in your 40s and obese, you probably already have one or more health problems. Type 2 diabetes has become the norm.

We are what we eat and how we move.

A lot of what we eat is engineered junk food. Salt and sugar. It is created in a laboratory and designed to get people hooked. Many high-fat junk foods stimulate the brain. Methamphetamine and cocaine do, too.

Children of obese people are more likely to become obese than children of parents who are not. However, scientists believe obesity is not purely genetic. “It’s not like eye color,” scientists say.

In most cases, obesity is the end result of overeating and inactivity.

Obesity in children is a major health risk, and today 20.6 percent of the 12- to 19-year-olds in America, and more than twice as many adults, 42.4 percent, already are obese.

At the same time, entertainment media have embraced obesity—for the dollars—as something to celebrate.

Excess fat around the middle, hypertension, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and a poor cholesterol profile suppress the immune system and increase the risk of contracting and succumbing to Covid-19, but the pandemic hasn’t frightened people into changing their eating habits.

There is a sliver of hope to be found in national data showing a modest decline in obesity among young children in WIC-enrolled programs. WIC is a federal program that promotes healthy eating by helping people pay for food.

WIC vouchers can be used at most farmers markets, where anyone can find the healthiest food available.

A recent scientific study urges us to not underestimate the power of activity to transform our health, even in middle and older age. They found 21 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day may prevent 46% of deaths due to inactivity. Making this daily change later in life can still impact how long you will live.

Poor diet is the leading cause of poor health in America. When this is all over, let’s eat healthier and exercise.

Larry McDermott, a retired journalist, owns a 40-acre organic farm in Rutherfordton, where he grows blueberries, keeps bees and raises horses, dairy goats, and chickens. Email: or see farm happenings at