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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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Take a step back from social interactions, says B.C.'s top doctor – Richmond News



VICTORIA — British Columbia reported 223 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, tipping the number of active infections over 2,000.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says in a statement infections have been detected at two more assisted-living or long-term care homes and there are two new community outbreaks.

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The latest health-care outbreaks are at Laurel Place in Surrey and Fair Haven Homes at Burnaby Lodge, while the community outbreaks involve Coast Spas Manufacturing and Pace Processing in Langley.

Outbreaks at a number of other care homes have been declared over, leaving 16 homes and two acute-care facilities with active infections.

Seventy-five people are in hospital, including 24 in intensive care, but no one else has died from the illness since the province’s last update.

Henry says contact tracing teams throughout the province are working around the clock, but their success depends on everyone taking a step back from social interactions.

There are nearly 4,640 people under public health monitoring as a result of exposure to a known case.

B.C. has confirmed 12,554 cases of COVID-19 so far.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2020.

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Health officials announce 223 new coronavirus cases in BC | News – Daily Hive



Health officials in British Columbia have announced 223 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of known cases in the province to 12,554.

In a written statement on Friday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that broken down by health region, this equates to 4,319 cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 6,864 in the Fraser Health region, 250 in the Island Health region, 662 in the Interior Health region, 371 in the Northern Health region, and 88 cases of people who reside outside of Canada.

There are 2,009 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 4,637 people who are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases.

Currently, 75 individuals are hospitalized with COVID-19, 24 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people with COVID-19 are recovering at home in self-isolation.

There have been two new healthcare facility outbreaks at Laurel Place and Fair Haven Homes Burnaby Lodge. The outbreaks at PICS Assisted Living, Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre, Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence, and Thornebridge Gardens Retirement Residence have been declared over. In total, 16 long-term care or assisted-living facilities and two acute-care facilities have active outbreaks.

There have been two new community outbreaks at Coast Spas Manufacturing and Pace Processing. There also continue to be exposure events around the province. Public alerts and notifications are posted on the BC Centre for Disease Control’s (BCCDC) website and on all health authorities’ websites.

There have been no new COVID-19-related deaths, for a total of 256 deaths in British Columbia.

A total of 10,247 people who tested positive have recovered.

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Record 274 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in B.C., including five in Island Health – Times Colonist



British Columbia has seen a ­second day of record-high COVID-19 cases, with 274 new cases reported on Thursday.

B.C. reported more than 200 new infections for the first time on Wednesday, with 203 confirmed cases.

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There were five new cases reported in the Island Health region Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 15. There has also been a new COVID-19 exposure at a Vancouver Island school, Island Health said.

Families at Wood Elementary School in Port Alberni received a letter Wednesday saying a member of the school community has tested positive for COVID-19.

The exposure happened on Oct. 19 and the health authority will use contact tracing to notify staff and students who need to self-isolate or self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

People who have been asked to self-isolate received a phone call, while those told to self-monitor were notified by letter.

Those who have not been contacted should continue to attend school and monitor for symptoms, according to the letter, signed by Dr. Shannon Waters, medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley region, and Pacific Rim school district superintendent Greg Smyth.

The latest school exposure on the Island follows two previous school exposures in September: One at Carihi Secondary in Campbell River on Sept. 28 and one at Alberni Secondary in Port Alberni on Sept. 22.

B.C. has seen its first school outbreak, at Kelowna’s Ecole de l’Anse-au-Sable School, where five cases have been confirmed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said despite the school outbreak, there’s no indication the return to in-person classes has caused COVID-19 to spread.

Since in-person classes resumed on Sept. 10, here have been 213 exposure warnings of COVID-19 cases linked to a school, Henry said. There have been six “clusters” where more than one person linked to a school was infected and the Kelowna case is the first outbreak, she said. An outbreak outside a health facility is declared when at least two people test positive.

“We are not seeing return to school cause the amplification [of infections] in our community,” Henry said.

“While it’s concerning that we have an outbreak, what I think is positive about this is that we are monitoring all of the exposure events and we have had very little transmission in the schools and public health has been working with schools across the province to keep it that way.”

Henry said the majority of new COVID-19 cases are concentrated around the Lower Mainland, with 203 new cases in the Fraser Health region on Thursday.

The Fraser Health authority confirmed outbreaks at several long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities. The province has 1,920 active cases, with 71 people in hospital, 24 of whom are in critical care.

Henry said people are also travelling across the province and coming to B.C. from other parts of Canada, which increases the risk of spreading the virus.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has warned of a COVID-19 exposure on a flight to Victoria on Oct. 15. There was a confirmed case on Air Canada flight 195 from Toronto that day, and passengers in rows 17-23 are advised to self-isolate and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Gatherings such as weddings, funerals and Thanksgiving meals have caused significant spread of the coronavirus in the province, said Henry, adding as the cold weather sets in and events move indoors, there’s a higher risk for the virus to spread.

People getting married should consider having a civil ceremony and waiting until next year to hold a larger gathering with extended family and friends, she said.

The maximum gathering size remains 50 people, but as flu season begins, people need to be extra cautious and limit gatherings to their households plus their “safe six” bubbles, Henry said.

“You may think the risk doesn’t apply to you because you live far away from the Lower Mainland. But we have seen on many occasions … that COVID‑19 knows no boundaries and impacts us all.”

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