2023 – the challenge to stay cautious increases

The squirrel was cautious. I need to be cautious, too.

There are times when I prefer to express my thoughts in english. Year four of the pandemic has begun. I’m still free of covid19 infection. I got lucky, though. I visited my parents at home during Christmas and got infected with HCoV-OC43 (swab test examined at virology of Vienna). Two weeks off, one week with a nasty dry cough, one week feeling weak with a need for rest. With any luck, the OC43 infection has some cross-reactive effect on my vaccine-induced immunity against SARS-CoV2. However I do not have any intentions to test my newly-acquired cross-reactive immunity, if any, against the new variants currently circulating in Austria (BQ.1.1., XBB.1.5 and others).

Exactly three years ago, I started my first and probably last stay at a health resort in Bad Mitterndorf, Northern Alpine region. I tried to stay offline for quite some time and missed the first developments of the pandemic. When the situation got worse in March 2020 with following lockdown, my plans for the rest of the year got smashed. Nevertheless I managed to go hiking with overnight stay in the first year of the pandemic. In the second and third year I was still able to stay some nights elsewhere, despite decreasing mandatory protective measures and increasingly feeling uncomfortable. In 2023 there will be another change as most countries declared the pandemic as over. People like me who continue to wear masks have a hard time in a world full of reckless and disinformed people.

Yes, I miss my old life. I miss being spontaneous the most. I don’t have a car and I don’t want to have one. Besides of ecological reasons (climate emergency), I always felt uncomfortable with driving. I liked taking public transport. No need for looking for a parking lot, no stress driving the freeway or in a big city like Vienna, no risk of accident after a long mountain hike when I became tired. There are lots of places I can’t reach without a car, where public transport is not possible or too complicated. This is where group tours came in. I even planned my first long-distance travel shortly before the pandemic. Two weeks Cape Verde Islands.

I miss the inability to go on group tours again, maybe forever. The risk of infection is everywhere. It could happen during breakfest at the hotel, or in a restaurant. You can’t anticipate the weather, maybe there is no other way than to go inside. I know so many people who caught their infection this way. I don’t go in restaurants anymore for about three years. I went their very few times with my parents or with friends but I always felt this uneasiness to stay longer than necessary. I’m mostly so smart to bring my aranet4 CO2 measuring device with me, to assess the probability of infection depending on the amount of people, the duration of exposure and the background incidence if available.

2023 will likely be the most difficult year of the pandemic due to painful cognitive dissonance. I consider myself well-informed and many people in my environment who are less informed wonder why I’m still cautious. They confuse my precaution with anxiety or unsubstantiated panic. This is far from being true. I feel perfectly in control with respect to the ongoing risks of getting infected. I know how to protect myself – by avoiding indoor crowding, wearing FFP3 masks and measuring CO2 indoor. I do not fear the pandemic itself, I’m able to handle this because I understand the science behind it. I fear the people who do not understand the science or just don’t care. It makes me sick to have the same senseless discussions over and over again.

I get especially mad when people insinuate I would be too concerned with the pandemic. What I do normally for distraction, doesn’t work anymore like before. I can’t stay overnight a few days anywhere because I need to be cautious. When I go hiking I need to choose the train or bus very carefully. Rush hour times could get really stuffy and in an ill-ventilated bus like the Mariazellerbus, driving for three hours with lots of unmasked people could actually pose an enhanced infection risk despite wearing a tight mask. I still go hiking with public transport, I actually do, but it needs good planning ahead, which is somewhat exhausting, too.

I’m very busy collecting information and doing citizen journalism here. This is besides all other reasons quite typical for autistic people like me. We tend to have special interests and when we are really really interested in a certain subject, we’re able to become a specialist for it. We feel the “flow” and are able to focus ourselves for hours or days doing research and writing stuff together. This is what I’ve done before with self-support blogs, with my hobby weather before I studied it and became a professional meteorologist. Covid, the pandemic, all the political connections around it, it is just another special interest for me. So it’s mainly astonishing for neurotypical people who do not know me or do not know anything about autistic people at all. I need this occupation as long as the pandemic continues to endanger my life. I’m not a fearmonger, I have sentinel intelligence (“Some of us are cursed to hear the future.”, Jessica Wildfire 19.12.22). Getting information actually calms me down. Uncertainty increases uneasiness. The majority of people who appears to be satisfied by the misinformation they get during the pandemic, escapes into denial, which could be called immature copying strategies. Children behave in such a manner. Before the pandemic I never expected that entire governments would behave childish.

At some point in 2021 I recall that I said to my psychologist “Times will never be like before.” She was sursprised why I’ve been so sure about that we wouldn’t go back to “normality” that there won’t be a certain date later when it could be said the pandemic is over. I couldn’t really say why but I had this deep feeling of finality, of a turning point in history. Despite all claims in 2022 and at the beginning of 2023, that the pandemic would be over and we’re back normal, I think most of us, even those in denial, know for sure this isn’t true. Society has broken into pieces. The burden of disease has grown. Most of us have lost a loved one, a friend, a relative. Lost due to death or longterm disease. If you lose somebody, it makes no difference whether he or she had an underlying condition. So many people have underlying conditions, including myself. To think their life is less worthy than the life of healthy people is eugenic thinking. It’s disgusting.

Work and life lost their balance last year when life normalized for most people in my environment. At least they thought it would be normal now. Sick leave days markedly increased. Some got long covid symptoms. Most of them recovered but it lasted months for complete recovery. I don’t feel the pressure the have the same experience. The burden of expectations lies heavy on mind. People expect me to function 100% again, as if there were not any infection risk anymore. I can’t pretend that I don’t care anymore because I know that it IS wrong. A good friend of mine suffers from a mild covid infection eight weeks ago, far from reaching his health status before the infection. He’s unable to go on hiking tours at the moment and I don’t know when and if his recovery is complete again. It is impossible that people expect me to ignore this. It’s a sad fact that regardless of vaccination status and variant, you still need to be careful with ANY breakthrough infection. I feel powerless against the degree of disinformation by false experts, denying journalists and politicians. People are under bad influence, brainwashed to think infection is good for your health and it’s ok to mock people who still want to be cautious – for reasons but they won’t listen anymore.

I want people to listen. Shut up for ten minutes when I try to tell the facts about the pandemic. Do not annoy me with killer argument. No China, no lockdown, no poor children due to school closures, no wearing masks forever. Just listen what I tell you about the longterm risk of covid and how the treatments are if you get long covid. At first, you need a positive pcr-test to get an appointment. Then you only get two appointments which is utmost sufficient for diagnosis and some preliminary therapy recommendations. That’s it. Quite unsatisfying for patient AND longcovid specialist in charge. Don’t rely on your GP. You have to be lucky he’s actually familiar with the latest guidelines of diagnostics and treatment.

I wish I had the power and rhetoric ability to convince other people “offline” to listen. In a verbal discussion I can’t quickly search a paper to back up my arguments, which is a great advantage when searching my blog or referring to my epic scientific literature collection. I wish I could lead these discussions because they are still necessary. Giving up is no alternative.

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