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Ten Coronavirus Terms and What They Mean

For our weekly science segment, we thought we’d run through a few words and phrases you’ve heard this month.  Some you know, and some maybe not.  Here are ten coronavirus terms, and exactly what they mean . . .

1.  COVID-19.  It’s not the virus, it’s the name of the ILLNESS it causes.  It  stands for “Coronavirus Disease 2019.”  The name of the virus is SARS-CoV-2.  It stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.”

2.  N95 masks.  The “N95” part means it blocks 95% of airborne particles as small as one-third of a micron thick . . . or three ten-thousandths of a millimeter.

3.  P.P.E.  It’s a catch-all term healthcare workers use for things like masks and gloves.  It stands for “personal protective equipment.

4.  Pandemic vs. epidemic.  An epidemic is smaller and more localized.  Pandemic means worldwide.  The World Health Organization started calling it a pandemic on March 11th.

5.  Positive and presumptive cases.  You’re only “positive” if you test positive.  Even if someone has symptoms and they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive, they’re still a presumptive case.

6.  Mitigation vs. containment.  We passed the containment phase a while ago.  Now we’re trying to “mitigate” or slow down the spread, so we don’t all get it at once.  That’s what “flattening the curve” is all about.

7.  Community spread.  “Person-to-person spread” means you can track how the disease got from one person to another.  “Community spread” means multiple people in the same area get it, and there’s no obvious chain of events to connect them all.

8.  Quarantine, self-quarantine, and self-isolation.  “Quarantine”  means you were exposed to someone with the virus but don’t have symptoms, and it’s doctor’s orders.  “Self-quarantine” means you’ve been exposed, but you do it on your own.  And “self-isolate” technically applies only to people who already have symptoms or test positive.

9.  Social distancing.  That’s what MOST of us are doing right now.  It means staying home unless you have to go out . . . not getting together in groups . . . and staying at least six feet away from people when you do go out.

10.  Shelter in place.  It’s a step above social distancing.  It means your state or local government ordered you to stay home unless you need supplies . . . need to exercise . . . or your job is considered “essential” right now.