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Jonathan Neman, co-founder and CEO of Sweetgreen, a popular salad chain, faced backlash on social media this week after posting that “no vaccine nor mask will save us” and connecting individuals who are obese and overweight with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Neman on Wednesday, in a since-deleted LinkedIn post, wrote, “COVID is here to stay for the foreseeable future. We cannot run away from it and no vaccine nor mask will save us,” Vice reported. However, he noted that he is vaccinated and encourages others to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“78% of hospitalizations due to COVID are obese and overweight people,” Neman said in the LinkedIn post. “Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? Is there another way to think about how we tackle ‘healthcare’ by addressing the root cause?”
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“We clearly have no problem with government overreach on how we live our lives all in the name of ‘health,’ however we are creating more problems than we are solving,” Neman wrote in the post.
“What if we made the food that is making us sick illegal? What if we taxed processed food and refined sugar to pay for the impact of the pandemic? What if we incentivized health?” he added.
Health officials have urged all eligible individuals to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The inoculations available in the U.S. are effective at preventing severe illness from COVID-19.
A CDC study released last month showed that unvaccinated people in Los Angeles were more than 29 times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated people.
People with certain conditions or diseases can be more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. Those conditions include being overweight or obese, defined by body mass index.
Journalists and others on social media criticized Neman’s argument on Wednesday, accusing him of shaming overweight and obese people regardless of their vaccination status. Others called the comments out-of-touch with food that is accessible for low-income individuals and families.
USA TODAY has reached out to Sweetgreen for comment.