No judgement

These are the strangest of times. I don’t know how to feel about the things that are going on in the world right now.

Roughly a year ago now, governments mandated that masks should be worn in the streets in the city center, even when COVID-19 case numbers were down to very low levels. We weren’t allowed to leave our houses as there was a curfew. When municipal incidence rates were over 100, we were not allowed to leave our municipality. I remember this well, as in April 2021 we bought our campervan, and we were basically not allowed to use it until our municipality was below the threshold. I wasn’t sure what to think about these measures. They seemed a tad strong, and I wasn’t sure what these curfews would do. To me they didn’t matter anyway. I’m in bed at 10pm.

Fast forward a year to today. Following a winter where we had up to 300K cases per day, as omicron ripped through the country. Municipal incidence rates were more than 20 times the threshold that was used less than a year ago. Yet, governments all over Europe decided that the pandemic was over. It wasn’t over then, and still isn’t over now. Roughly 50K new cases per day are still registered, and as many people don’t test or register their status, the official numbers mean very little. It wouldn’t surprise me if real values are several times higher than the registered numbers.

A couple of weeks ago, all government precautions have been dropped, including masking and distancing in public spaces. It is still strongly advised to be cautious and wear masks in public spaces, but not mandated. In response, people have collectively dropped every precaution that ever was there. No matter what the official advice is. Without mandates it doesn’t work. I never understood why the mandates were dropped, or why people stopped following science-based advice. The actions do not match the present situation. They also most certainly do not match the science.

I can’t wrap my head around universities – the institutions that being knowledge and science to the world – going in completely opposite direction to the scientific findings the scientists they employ bring to the world. Our university, as many others worldwide, was eager to bring many people into crowded classroom. In our department, we are getting very conflicting messages. Masking and distancing is still strongly advised, even though it is no longer a university rule. Yet, there now seems to be a strong urge to not only make everyone return to office, but also actively urge people to meet and do things together. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I feel conflicted. COVID-19 should ideally not limit scientific progress. However, should we really be promoting actively that people meet indoors, when it’s not really needed? I’m not so sure. I still think limiting spread, and minimizing longcovid, deaths, and new mutations, should be the sensible thing to do.

These days I’m the rare exception in other public spaces that still wears a mask. I wear one because a mask still does what it always did. It limits spread of my aerosols, and it prevents, to a lesser extent, those of others reaching me. I wear one because it doesn’t hurt me. I wear one to protect those around me by not spreading stuff I may have picked up somewhere to them, and to prevent picking up something from others. Let’s call it selfish altruism. I am seeing more people than I feel comfortable seeing. I teach students, I supervise a team, I have kids in daycare, and yes, I am seeing friends. I wear a mask in public indoor spaces. I don’t wear a mask outside. I don’t wear a mask inside my own house when I occasionally meet friends. I test regularly, mostly before bigger gatherings, or whenever my son brings some sniffles back from daycare. I don’t really see these things as limitations.

Every single day, I’m ridiculed for choosing to wear a mask. Every single day. By people in shops, people in supermarkets. They range from silly remarks, to more elaborate explanations, to angry stares and unmasked people simply distancing stronger than before. Yesterday a cashier at a gas station explained to me that masking was no longer necessary, and when I told her I masked by choice, she shrugged and made it clear it was nonsense. Heck, even my therapist made inappropriate comments about it when I put on a mask to enter the shared corridor that leads to his practice. One colleague assured me there was no judgement. It was a sweet thing to say. Also completely naive. Someone else said that it wasn’t so bad for me to be ridiculed, because I had never experienced racism. I have rarely heard a sillier comment.

I don’t get it. I never wore a mask because I had to. I wore a mask because it was the right thing to do, because scientific evidence shows that masking works. Apparently 90 percent of the population wore masks only because they were told to do so. They all dropped it now.

Wednesdays are generally for things I struggle with. Often these are mental issues. This time, it’s a more practical struggle. Although I have to say that the collective gaslighting and ridiculing happening everywhere – not just with me – is weighing down heavily on me.

Time will tell what the future brings on all fronts, but I’m not looking forward to fall…

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

3 thoughts on “No judgement

    1. It used to be that people would be ridiculed for dumb things. Two years ago Trump was ridiculed for saying the silliest shit about covid. Now, many people have joined him in repeating similarly silly shit. Things are different now. People are such hypocrites, no? I am losing sleep over it – not good!

      Liked by 1 person

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