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17 coronavirus terms that are changing the world



Keeping those hands germ-free is essential. 

Angela Lang/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

In just three months, the coronavirus first reported in China has locked down entire countries and killed over 7,000 people around the world. Employees and students are staying indoors by choice or by mandate. Social media feeds fill with pleas to engage in social distancing.

The highly contagious virus is poorly understood, but scientists are racing to share knowledge and discover therapies to fight it. A vaccine could take a year or more. Meanwhile, the fabric — and language — of society is changing at an alarming rate, as the coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2 spreads around the globe.

If you’re familiar with the most important words and phrases borne from the COVID-19 outbreak, congratulations on being so thoroughly informed. If not, we’ll help you brush up on what you need to know to get along in a coronavirus world. We’ll continue to update this story as our social response to the virus evolves.

Novel coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2

No, the virus known to have infected over 180,000 people isn’t actually named “coronavirus.” The word refers to any in a family of viruses whose structure presents crownlike spikes when seen under a microscope. The term “novel coronavirus” is a general term for the current type we’re fighting. It became a fixture before the virus was given an official name: SARS-CoV-2.


You may be tempted to use COVID-19 as a synonym for coronavirus, but that will confuse matters. COVID-19 is the name of the disease that the novel coronavirus causes. It stands for “Coronavirus disease 2019.”

The disease brings on flulike symptoms, but dangerously affects the lungs by filling them with fluid at a rapid rate. Patients with extreme cases may need respirators and oxygen to help them breathe, often for weeks. The fear is that fatalities will occur when patient need for ventilators outstrips the supply.


The World Health Organization, often called WHO, is the global body that’s become a clearinghouse of information, research and safety guidelines. SARS-CoV-2, then referred to simply as novel coronavirus, was first reported to the WHO on December 31, 2019, days after the first patients were hospitalized in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Pandemic versus epidemic

WHO officially declared the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic on March 11. The word “pan” (which roughly means “all”) refers to the global nature of the spread, affecting virtually every country and region around the globe. An epidemic refers to a more localized region. Before reaching places like the US, coronavirus was considered an epidemic in China’s Hubei province, and then in the country itself. Here’s more on pandemics versus epidemics.

PCR testing

A testing protocol to identify if you’ve contracted the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. This test works by identifying the virus’ DNA through a process called PCR, or polymerase chain reaction. The PCR test looks for telltale markers distinct to this viral strain. The sample can be obtained through a throat or nasal swab, which makes it ideal for the kind of drive-through testing centers proposed in countries like the US. More details about coronavirus testing here.

Positive versus presumptive cases

How do you know if you’re infected with the new coronavirus? Listing your symptoms isn’t enough. Positive, or confirmed, cases are identified with lab tests. Presumptive cases are not. If you’re exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 — including fever, a dry cough and fluid accumulation in the lungs — and have had contact with a confirmed case, you’re still considered presumptive.

Global confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 17, 2020 (cumulative). Tracked by Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. 

Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering/Screenshot by CNET

Community spread

SARS-CoV-2 is highly contagious, spreading through “respiratory droplets” (a cough, sneeze, transfer of saliva) and contaminated objects, like a door handle or other shared surfaces. Person-to-person spread means you can trace how the disease got from one person to another through direct contact, like shaking hands. Community spread refers to people in the same location contracting the virus without an obvious chain of events.

Community spread is an early sign that a disease can rapidly affect local, even global, populations. Read more at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Social distancing

In addition to thorough handwashing, the WHO and CDC recommend the practice of social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 by keeping at least 6 feet away from others, refraining from touching and by staying indoors, especially if you’re over 60, immunocompromised or suffering from an underlying condition. Local and national governments have responded by limiting gatherings of people, ranging from no more than 10 people to 50 or 250 or even 1,000.

Self-quarantine, self-isolation

People who largely stay inside their own home, hotel room or other space are said to self-quarantine or self-isolate. For example, many governments are asking travelers returning from afflicted areas to self-quarantine for two weeks. However, there’s a technical difference. Quarantine refers to people who appear healthy, but could be at risk for exposure or infection. Isolation refers to separating positive or presumptive cases (see above) from the healthy population.


Mitigation, not containment

This phrase acknowledges that at pandemic proportions, nations can’t contain the spread of coronavirus. But with social distancing, self-quarantine and isolation, the burden of COVID-19 can be mitigated. In other words, slowing down the rate of infection can increase chances of survival by avoiding overcrowding hospitals, running short on pivotal supplies before they can be replenished and overworking medical staff. This is a deeply sobering account of what happens when the COVID-19 disease overwhelms medical and support systems.

Flatten the curve

Without mitigation, social distancing and all the rest, epidemiologists and other health experts predict a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases that looks like a tall, narrow spike on a graph. By following guidelines, the projected model looks shorter and spread out over time. The curve is flatter, milder, less pronounced. The hope of flattening the curve is to reduce fatalities by buying hospitals time to treat and scientists time to discover therapies and create a vaccine.

Adapted from CDC pre-pandemic guidelines (2017) 


Shelter in place

On March 16, six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area ordered residents to “shelter in place”, a directive aimed at keeping people in their homes for three weeks. All nonessential businesses are shuttered, and with the exception of shopping for items like groceries and pharmaceuticals, picking up food and taking walks while maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others, locals are expected to stay inside. It’s a fairly strict measure aimed at curbing community spread.

N95 face masks

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and coronavirus spreads through vaporized droplets. N95 respirator masks are the only type that can protect you from acquiring SARS-CoV-2. Any other variety, including surgical masks, are ineffective at blocking out the airborne virus. So why do some people continue to wear surgical masks? They may not be fully informed, it might make them feel better, or they might feel ill and want to provide a barrier from their coughs and sneezes as a courtesy to you.

Hand-washing, social distancing and self-quarantine are considered more effective measures for ordinary citizens, and the medical community asks to save N95 masks for their nurses and doctors, who are in the most exposed and in greatest need of protection.

Vulcan greeting

You’re not shaking hands, kissing, or patting people on the back. Those elbow and toe taps are out, too. Instead of usual cultural methods for saying hello, one internet meme suggested greeting people the Vulcan way, by flashing a fictional hand signal for “live long and prosper”. Here are 12 other touch-free ways to say “hey.”

An abundance of caution

The preemptive closure of offices, businesses and schools ahead of positive cases has often been met with the phrase “due to an (over)abundance of caution.”

70% isopropyl alcohol

Washing thoroughly with soap and water is the best way to kill the coronavirus on the skin, but surfaces can be harder to disinfect. Experts say that disinfectant wipes and spray, and solutions made with 70% isopropyl alcohol are also effective at destroying the virus’ structure. But be careful. Making your own hand sanitizer and other cleaning agents can be dangerous, and isn’t recommended.

Zoonotic disease

How did coronavirus come to be? What scientists know is that coronaviruses are transmitted between humans and animals — that’s the “zoo” in “zoonotic“. It’s believed that the virus may have originated in a live animal market in Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province of China, with a diseased animal transmitting it within members of the local population. Other zoonotic diseases include anthrax, rabies, Lyme disease, H1N1 (“swine flu”), West Nile virus, salmonella and malaria.

Stay informed on coronavirus updates and developments, help your friends and neighbors dispel myths about the virus and use these 10 practical tips to avoid coronavirus when you need to leave the house.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


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Several care homes in B.C. Interior battling COVID-19 outbreaks amid region's case surge – CTV News Vancouver



The surging COVID-19 case numbers in B.C.’s Interior Health region appear to be spilling over into long-term care homes.

Three new outbreaks have been declared in local long-term care facilities since Monday, according to the Interior Health website.

Two of the homes – Cottonwoods Care Centre and Brookhaven Care Centre – are in Kelowna, where increasing COVID-19 transmission recently prompted a renewed indoor mask mandate for the Central Okanagan.

The other outbreak was declared at Kootenay Street Village in Cranbrook. A fourth outbreak discovered last month at Nelson Jubilee Manor, another long-term care facility in the region, remains active.

Details on the number of cases confirmed at each facility are not available on the Interior Health website. CTV News has reached out to the health authority for more information, including on how COVID-19 might have been introduced into the homes and whether the concerning Delta variant has been detected at any of them.

As recently as July 18, B.C. health officials were celebrating more than a week without a single outbreak at a long-term care home or assisted living facility anywhere in the province.

Case numbers have been surging since then, particularly in the Interior Health region, which accounts for 945 of B.C.’s 1,764 active coronavirus cases.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the “vast majority” of recent cases involve people who have not been immunized against the disease.

Some families with loved ones in long-term care have expressed concerns at the lack of transparency around staff vaccination rates. The B.C. Care Providers Association recently said there are some facilities where only 70 per cent of employees are vaccinated – well below the province-wide immunization rate for eligible residents – but the government has repeatedly declined to provide site-specific numbers to the public.

There have also been calls for mandatory vaccinations of care home workers who work with vulnerable residents, including from seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie.

Henry has said B.C. will not require care home employees to get immunized against COVID-19, but that those who don’t get vaccinated will be required to keep wearing masks at work and submitting to regular testing.

She also recently alluded to possible “consequences” for those who continue refusing the vaccine.

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COVID-19: Delta variant driving fourth wave in B.C. – Flipboard



Alberta Has Essentially Decided the Pandemic Is Over

VICE – Brennan Doherty • 16h

Alberta will soon have some of the loosest COVID-19 public health restrictions in North America. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in Alberta will no longer be required to isolate for at least 10…

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Northern Health Region adds 13 new cases, three new outbreaks in Interior Health –



Out of 7,875 total cases in the region, 7,664 have recovered.

There were 1,116 vaccine doses given since Tuesday, bringing the total number of doses given to 301,931. Of those, 133,664 are second doses.

Provincial COVID-19 data

The province added 342 new cases Wednesday, bringing the active case count to 1,764.

There are 55 people in hospital, 23 of whom are in critical care.

There were no deaths across B.C. Wednesday, keeping the total at 1,772.

Out of 150,973 total cases, 147,409 have since recovered.

There were 24,495 vaccine doses given since Tuesday, bringing the total number of doses given to 6,931,815. Of those, 3,148,473 are second doses.

Three new outbreaks in Interior Health Region

Since Monday, three new outbreaks have been declared in long-term care facilities according to the Interior Health website.

Two homes are in Kelowna, where a surge in cases led to the return of mask mandates. The other outbreak is in Cranbrook.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that the vast majority of cases recorded recently are in people who haven’t received a single dose of the vaccine.

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