Individual Fates in the pandemic

In my current work, every now and then there are individual fates that stay particularly in my mind.

I work in the field of pandemic control. One of the tasks of our department is to,

  • to contact persons who have tested positive by telephone,
  • go through a questionnaire with them
  • and to inform the persons affected of the so-called isolation period (beginning and end of the prescribed quarantine), which then already has the character of an official notice. Subsequently, we trace the contact persons and send them to quarantine as well, if necessary.

We all hear about infection figures and incidences, that is all very much in the abstract. Behind these figures are sometimes individual fates that are shattering and that make me think and feel sad.

I have alienated personal details to protect the privacy of the individuals.


I am talking to the 28-year-old’s uncle. He has been lying in the intensive care unit for days “with a tube in his throat” in artificial deep sleep. Previous illnesses? He had asthma as a child, otherwise he is healthy.

His future is “written in the stars”, say the doctors.


The elderly lady is very upset. Since the death of her husband, she lives alone in the large flat. She breathes quickly, the fear literally crawls out of the receiver.

She is very overweight and has high blood pressure, so she will surely fall seriously ill, won’t she? Then there’s her age…

The phone call lasts longer than it would take to collect the necessary data. I try to calm her down.

In the days that follow, I have to think about her again and again, have her symptoms worsened?


The phone rings for so long that I already wanted to hang up. A male voice answers, it sounds weak, I hear the gentleman breathing heavily.

He is in hospital. Is he sure that he wants to have this conversation? Yes, yes, it’s fine. After a few questions it becomes clear: it’s not going to work. In the end, I would like to know in which hospital he is. It starts with F… or does it start with H? The ambulance picked him up from his home late last night, but he can’ t remember the name of the hospital.

I call the hospitals in Favoriten, Floridsdorf and Hietzing, then the other city hospitals until I find him. With the help of the medical staff, I can close the case.


It is not until the evening that I reach the caretaker, who has apparently picked up his work mobile although he is already off duty. The young woman is fine, she has no symptoms. Only being locked up is very difficult for her, makes her aggressive. There are not enough caregivers available to provide regular outdoor exercise for all clients under Corona conditions.

Isolation from the other inhabitants is also not possible. She does not understand why she should not leave her room or put on a mask outside.

How many residents are there? There are twelve of them in the apartment unit, we are supposed to call the next day to collect their data. They all have to be quarantined as contacts.


I reach the lady in the car, she is just about to leave for Hungary, that is where she lives. She has been working as a sports trainer in a Viennese club for three days – until a few minutes ago. No, she has no symptoms, she feels fine.

I tell her that she now has to spend her quarantine period in Vienna. “Where am I supposed to stay? I have no more accomodation here!!!” Her anger is only too understandable. My supervisor manages to find a place to stay for the lady.


1925 is the year of birth of the old gentleman, who bears his age well. He has no symptoms, not really, except for a little headache. He never has headaches otherwise.

What gets to him is the recent death of his wife. They were married for more than sixty years, her loss feels like he has been taken hand or foot. He tells me about her, the marriage was very harmonious, they were “a good team”. Yes, he has three children, but unfortunately they all live far away.

The flat is so empty without her, every day he wonders why he should even get up in the morning.

At some point I manage to get all the necessary information and want to say goodbye. Do we really have to end the conversation already? I still have to call other people, I am sorry!

But I could call again, he would be happy, he says.

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