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Officials in a Long Island, N.Y., town wants its some 200,000 residents to shed some pounds in an effort to stave off the novel coronavirus and reverse any quarantine-related weight gain, or the so-called “quarantine 15.”

Suffolk County Legislature Health Committee Chairman Dr. William Spencer, Town of Huntington Clerk Andrew Raia, as well as Dr. David Buchin, an obesity specialist and director of bariatric surgery at Huntington Hospital, announced the “Healthy Huntington” initiative during a news conference on Wednesday.


Some 20,000 people live in Huntington.

Some 20,000 people live in Huntington. (iStock)

“I’m hoping that we start off with Huntington and it kind of spreads across the country because it’s a very serious thing,” Buchin, who is overseeing the program, said during the news conference. “COVID-19, you’re twice as likely to have a poor outcome if you’re obese. So it’s very important that we get fit and we get healthier.”

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that underlying conditions commonly linked to obesity — such as diabetes and high blood pressure — could put some people at higher risk for severe illness should they develop a COVID-19 infection.

Speaking to Fox News, Buchin said the goal behind the program, which is voluntary, is to “bring awareness to obesity and the [associated] problems with COVID-19.” He noted that an estimated 42 percent of coronavirus cases admitted to the Northwell Health system — of which Huntington Hospital is a part of — are obese.

Participants will be offered free exercise and yoga classes — albeit virtual, to keep in line with current distancing guidelines — as well as nutritional advice and ideas for healthy meals. Buchin also said he plans to hold at least two Facebook Live events so those taking part can ask questions about the novel virus and beyond.


The townwide diet is said to be the first of its kind in the nation amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic. Buchin said that if just 10 percent of Huntington's population were to participate, the initiative would be considered a success.

“Huntington has always been known for its sense of community. I think it’s important to get healthy together, and I hope everyone will take part,” said Buchin.

Suffolk County, of which Huntington is a part of, had nearly 39,000 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, according to official estimates.