Every single year is a massive risk of getting very sick for me especially with novel influenza strains, and very scary. When we talk about at risk populations I am part of that. This aspect is not new for those of us who deal with this risk fear every single year.
What is new is the public response.
No-one gains anything by people getting angry and abusive. In fact already many people of the chronic illness community around the world have had to deal with being treated as if they are infectious (not all coughs are the same- I have a noisy cough from my last bout of flu, it is not an infection) or as if we are over-reactive (I probably will need a proper face mask, people wearing them now are getting coughed on to mock them- ironically by people who assume they are well but could be vectors of anything.)
On top of that is too risky for me when I catch influenza to go to hospital. So I have to stay at home and I have nearly died because of it. It was such a small thing to go from breathing to not being able to, and even then the risk of a resistant bug from a long stay in hospital was a more risky option, I felt*.
I am getting increasingly scared to leave home not for my own health, not as a potential vector (like all of us) but in case I cough and get abused. I deal with behaviour that puts my health at risk constantly, now I have to be scared for assault for being ill.
I occasionally time my intake of sugars badly. I have collapsed several times, and I have been stuck on a bus and had all my limbs and digits bend backwards like I was in some horror film!
Other times I am scared and can’t speak, I can’t form words let alone a sentance, I just have to get to fluid and sugar. But other shoppers don’t know that and they tend to see me as an impatient angry person. And the response to that? Getting in my way or putting barriers in my way to punish me for being agitated.
I deal with dirty looks when I use accessible seating, or take a chair. On this, accessibility is for everyone, if it is risky for you to stand, to try to get to another seat, it is there for you. But there are some spaces designed for wheelchair access as there tend to be very few. These I avoid or use temporarily so I can make space when it is safe to do so.
*Not now. I have been assured by enough ambulance staff that yes, yes I should ring them.