Pandemic Glossary

Terms commonly used during 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic

Aerosol – virus particles emitted by an infected individual that are small enough to be suspended in the air for an extended period of time which may infect others.

AstraZeneca – A drug company that teamed with Oxford University to create a Covid-19 vaccine.

Biogen – A Cambridge-based biotechnology company that hosted a conference at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf hotel in February 2020 that became an early super spreader event.

“China Virus” – A xenophobic term used by President Tump and others for Covid-19

Contact tracing – Interviewing infected individuals to determine who else they may have exposed and then notifying those people to quarantine.

Coronavirus – A large family of viruses transmitted from animals to people that cause many illnesses including the common cold, SARS, and Covid-19.

Covid-19 – The coronavirus that emerged in 2019 to cause a pandemic.

Droplet – A relatively large virus particle emitted by an infected individual which will travel an average of 6 feet through the air until gravity pulls it down to a surface where it may remain infectious for a time.

Essential workers – Employees from many fields who were exempt from stay-at-home orders

Flatten the curve – Effort to reduce the overall number of infections to keep the number of patients needing hospitalization below the number of hospital beds available.

Frontline workers – Healthcare providers and those in related fields whose work brings them in regular contact with infected individuals.

Hybrid – A form of organizing schools whereby a portion of students attend in person and the rest learn remotely.

Hydroxychloroquine – a malaria drug promoted by President Trump and others as a protection against Covid but which actually had no benefits in treating the illness.

Isolation – separating a person infected with Covid-19 away from others.

Lockdown – Government imposed restrictions on travel, access to public spaces, and social gatherings.

Mail-in Ballot – Many states including Massachusetts permitted citizens to vote by mail. Despite the pandemic, voting rates were typically higher this year than in the past.

Masks – Coverings of different materials and design worn over the mouth and nose to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Due to shortages at the start of the pandemic, the CDC advised against wearing masks but then reversed and recommended universal mask-wearing.

Moderna – A Cambridge-based biotechnology company that developed the second Covid-19 vaccine authorized for use.

Novel Coronavirus – This literally means a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified such as Covid-19

Oximeter – A device that measures the proportion of oxygen in the blood. It commonly clips to a finger. Because Covid-19 affects lung function, oximeters have increase in importance.

Pfizer –  A New York City-based biotechnology company that partnered with the German drugmaker BioNTech to develop the first Covid-19 vaccine authorized for use in the US.

Pod – Small group of family members, friends, co-workers, with whom we have in person contact during the time of isolation

PPE – personal protective equipment, especially masks, needed by frontline workers but chronically in short supply.

Quarantine – The practice of separating individuals who have had close contact with someone with Covid-19 to reduce the risk of further transmission while determining whether they develop the disease.

R value – A way of measuring the spread of Covid-19. R is the number of people that one infected person will infect on average. An R value above one indicates a rising spread of the virus.

Remdesivir – An antiviral medicine developed to fight Ebola and now used with Covid-19 that prevents a virus from replicating in the cells of a person already infected by the virus.

Remote Learning – Students taking classes from home via computers

Shutdown  – see “lockdown”

Social Distancing – Maintaining physical space, usually 6 feet, from other people to decrease the chance of spreading the disease.

Super-spreader – A gathering at which a large number of people are infected.

Ventilator – a mechanical device that pumps oxygen into the lungs of patients unable to breath adequately on their own due to Covid-19 (or other condition).

WFH – work from home

WHO – World Health Organization

Wuhan – A city in China where Covid-19 was first detected.

Zoom – The name of video conferencing software widely used for remote learning and remote meetings. Used as a noun and a verb.