A guide to COVID-19 related terms and phrases


Chinese paramilitary police officers wearing protectieve gears transfer pails of disinfectant in Yunmeng county, outside Xiaogan City in China’s central Hubei province on February 12, 2020. – The death toll from China’s COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic climbed past 1,100 on February 12 but the number of new cases fell for a second straight day, as the World Health Organization urged global unity to combat the “grave threat”. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

In the last few weeks, people around the world have been bombarded with a new vocabulary as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Here is a glossary of phrases and terms related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Close contact

The CDC defines close contact as:

Being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time. 

Confirmed case vs. Presumptive positive case

The CDC defines a confirmed case as:

Anyone who has tested positive for the virus at the CDC laboratory. 

The CDC defines a presumptive positive case as:

Anyone who has tested positive for the virus, but testing was conducted at the local or state level.


Here’s how the CDC explained the origin of COVID-19:

“On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.”


The curve is a theoretical number researchers use to project the number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an epidemic as:

The occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or other health-related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy.

Essential business

During a news conference on March 20 Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker outlined essential businesses and workers as:

“Healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement officers, and the individuals and organizations like the Illinois AFL-CIO and other workers who keep our grocery stores and pharmacies running.”


The CDC defines isolation as:

Separating sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

Novel coronavirus

The CDC defines a novel coronavirus as:

“A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.”


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a pandemic as:

The worldwide spread of a new disease.


The CDC defines a quarantine as:

Separating and restricting the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.


The CDC explains Remdesivir as:

An investigational antiviral drug, was reported to have in-vitro activity against COVID-19. A small number of patients with COVID-19 have received intravenous remdesivir for compassionate use outside of a clinical trial setting.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a shelter-in-place order as:

“Shelter-in-place” means selecting an interior room or rooms within your facility, or ones with no or few windows, and taking refuge there. In many cases, local authorities will issue advice to shelter-in-place via TV or radio.


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines surveillance as:

The ongoing collection of epidemiological data, with real-time analysis. Mortality surveillance systems usually rely on home visitors who record deaths in households on a weekly basis.


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