Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Helpful Viral Vocabulary to Navigate the "New Normal"

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endures in spite of overwhelming obstacles. ~ Superman Christopher Reeve

Perhaps it’s because I am a writer and author, I started feeling overwhelmed and perplexed while trying to understand (and learn) the new vocabulary for our whitewater rapid times.

Throughout March, many new words, especially medical terminology, bombarded me while listening to briefings, reading articles, and watching videos--words like contact tracing, coronado, fast track testing, herd immunity, PPE, and under-responders. And what’s the difference between respirator and ventilator? COVID-19 and SARS? Stay at home and shutdown?

Words matter. So, for fun, I keep a list of new and familiar terms to better inform my writing. The list you're reading is perfectly imperfect, an eclectic mix from different sources, dictionaries, hashtags, posts, and my own understanding.

My hope is that this mini-dictionary now helps you better navigate the tsunami of our “new normal"!

Thank you in advance for commenting and sharing the new words that you learned or made you giggle.

Helpful Viral Vocabulary to Navigate the “New Normal"


Apex variously means “the tip, point, vertex, summit, climax, peak.” Concerning COVID-19, the apex can be used to refer to the highest numbers of cases in a state or county, after which the rate of infection begins to slow. (see flatten the curve.)

Asymptomatic means “showing no evidence of disease.” Just because a person is asymptomatic doesn’t mean they aren’t infected with COVID-19.

*CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The CDC is a U.S. federal agency based in Atlanta, Georgia. According to its mission statement, the CDC: … works 24/7 to protect America from health, safety, and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.
collective awakening, collective crisis, collective dark night of the soul
These three terms are used to describe the combined oneness of experiences for individuals, communities, and the world.

*community spread, collective spread
Community spread is the spread of a disease where the infection source is unknown.
According to the CDC, many sources of COVID-19 are due to exposure to a returned traveler who was infected.
Communicable means “capable of being easily communicated (spread) or transmitted.” COVID-19 is a contagious (infectious) disease.

*contact tracing
Contact tracing is finding out all the people who have come into direct contact with a person infected with a disease. Quarantining such people (known as contacts) and isolating them, if they become infected, helps slow the spread of the disease.

Do you see the daffodil’s corona--the cup-shaped or trumpet-shaped outgrowth at the center?
Corona comes from the late 19th century: from Spanish La Corona, literally ‘the crown,’ originally a proprietary name with several meanings:

* ASTRONOMY-the rarefied gaseous envelope of the sun and other stars. The sun’s corona is normally visible only during a total solar eclipse when it is seen as an irregularly shaped pearly glow surrounding the darkened disk of the moon.
* PHYSICS -the glow around a conductor at high potential.
Noun: corona discharge; plural noun: corona discharges
o    a small circle of light seen around the sun or moon, due to diffraction by water droplets.

* ANATOMY-a part of the body resembling or likened to a crown.

* BOTANY-the cup-shaped or trumpet-shaped outgrowth at the center of a daffodil or narcissus flower.

According to the Urban Dictionary, a coronado is someone who spreads the coronavirus.
Coronalingus, according to the Urban Dictionary, is sex during the coronavirus time of social distancing.
Coronavirus refers to any of the various RNA-containing spherical viruses of the family Coronaviridae, including several that cause acute respiratory illnesses.
Notable types of coronavirus are SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. COVID-19 is popularly referred to as (the) coronavirus or corona or short. COVID-19 is referred to as the novel coronavirus because it is a new (novel) virus (i.e., it hasn’t been detected before). Novel coronavirus can be abbreviated as nCoV. When looked at under a microscope, coronaviruses appear to be surrounded by a spiky array thought to look like a corona, or a crown-like shape, hence the name coronavirus.

COVID-19 is a highly infectious respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus. The disease was discovered in China in December 2019 and has since spread around the world.

COVID is short for the coronavirus disease. The number 19 refers to the fact that the disease was first detected in 2019. The scientific name of the virus that causes COVID-19 is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, abbreviated as SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 is one of seven types of coronavirus, including the ones that cause severe diseases like the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The other coronaviruses cause most of the colds that affect us during the year but aren’t a severe threat to otherwise healthy people.

A covidiot according to the Urban Dictionary, and relating to the 2020 COVID-19 virus, is someone who ignores the warnings regarding public health or safety. A person who hoards goods, denying them from their neighbor.

Covidiots during recent Cherry Blossom times in Washington, D.C.
An epidemic is a temporary prevalence of a disease spreading from person to person in a the locality where that disease is not permanently prevalent.

Epidemiology is the branch of medicine dealing with the incidence and prevalence of the disease in large populations and with the detection of the source and cause of epidemics of infectious disease.

An epidemiologist is a person who studies or is an expert in epidemiology.

When a disease, such as COVID-19, spreads exponentially, that generally means the number of cases of infection increase steadily but rapidly. Without containment, such exponential spread results in a large number of infections, even when an area has a small number of cases, to begin with.

fast track testing
Fast track testing is now being developed so that you can test for COVID-19 at home.

*flatten the curve
Flatten the curve means slowing the spread of an epidemic disease so that the capacity of the healthcare system doesn’t become overwhelmed. The curve represents the number of cases over time, and flattening that curve means preventing a massive surge of new cases in a short period.

GADFE is an acronym for “Grandparents Against Dying for Economy”

hand sanitizer (see sanitizer)
Wikipedia explains that “Hand sanitizer is a liquid or gel generally used to decrease infectious agents on the hands. Formulations of the alcohol-based type are preferable to handwashing with soap and water in most situations in the healthcare setting.”

Handwashing is an essential, lifesaving new normal routine of sanitizing your hands several times a day for 20 seconds; the soap breaks down the protein covering the coronavirus molecule.

*herd immunity
Herd immunity is the immunity or resistance to a particular infection that occurs in a group of people or animals when a very high percentage of individuals have been vaccinated or previously exposed to the infection.

hero (see sHero)
Perhaps Superman aka Christopher Reeve offers the best definition: “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure despite overwhelming obstacles.”

hero’s journey
Wikipedia explains that “in narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero's journey is the common template of a broad category of tales and lore that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.”

hunker, hunkering down (see social distancing)

ISWTWFM is an acronym for “I stand with that woman from Michigan.” It refers to the social media response for Governor Gretchen Whitmer who was called “that woman in Michigan” by POTUS; it came while he directed Vice President Michael Pence not to speak to her and other Democratic governors until they were “more appreciative” of the Federal government’s relief efforts.

Immunocompromised means having an impaired or compromised immune response, also referred to as immune-compromised or immunodeficient.

*immunity (see herd immunity)
Immunity is the state of being immune from (“protected from a disease”) or insusceptible to a particular disease. The condition permits either natural or acquired resistance to disease. Humans don’t currently have immunity to COVID-19.

*incubation period
The incubation period means the period between infection and the appearance of signs of disease.

Merriam Webster Dictionary explains that to intubate means “to insert a tube into a hollow body part, especially the trachea for ventilation.”

isolation (self-isolation)
Merriam Webster Dictionary states that” isolation is the action of isolating or the condition of being isolated. Synonyms include aloneness, insulation, seclusion, segregation, separateness, and solitude. 

lockdown (see shutdown)
With more than one-fifth of the world’s population affected by COVID-19, there are diverse definitions as to what is deemed essential in any given state or country as it goes into lockdown. For example, lockdown exceptions put in place include New Hampshire believing flower shops among the essentials for services to funeral homes. California and Washington deemed pot shops and workers in the market’s supply chain necessities. In France, shops that sell cheese, pastries, and wine remain open. Meanwhile, Italy enforces the strictest lockdown rules, including only food vendors and pharmacies, to stay open.


Disease mitigation measures are taken to slow the spread of infection. Quarantineisolation, and social distancing are forms of mitigation.
Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds is one the important thing to do to help prevent the spread, or mitigate, COVID-19.
“new normal"
The “new normal" started arriving in 2019 with slow-moving outbreaks of COVID-19. It gained momentum like a violent tsunami, touching everything in its path—and some survived, some did not. Governments now struggle to hold their society together through crippling economic disasters; individuals strain under shuttered conditions, and; medical systems buckle from overwhelming caseloads, lack of staff, supplies, and beds.

Nothing remains the same.

Interestingly, the word “news” is an acronym for north, east, west, and south—and the coronavirus floods the news 24/7 of our lives around the globe!

NV95 mask
An N95 mask protects you from breathing in small particles of air, such as dust and mold. It is designed to filter out at least 95% of the dust and mold in the air—and so the name.

An NV95 mask should be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Look for the NIOSH logo and the test and certification (T.C.) approval number on the mask or packaging. Masks that are not certified by NIOSH may not provide adequate protection to you. Use an N95 mask even if you cannot see the particles because they may be too small to see. N95 masks do NOT protect you against chemical vapors, gases, carbon monoxide, gasoline, asbestos, lead, or low oxygen environments.

The over-responders are the panic people who have stockpiled months’ worth of supplies. They’re scared, and buttressing themselves with stacks of toilet paper is empowering them and easing (that) fear. 

PPE stands for personal protective equipment. PPE means any device or appliance designed to be worn or held by an individual for protection against one or more health and safety hazards.

A pandemic is a disease prevalent throughout an entire country, continent, or the world; it's is an epidemic that has spread over a large area.

The World Health Organization (WHO) specifically uses pandemic to refer to new diseases people do not have immunity for, and that has spread worldwide. The WHO has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
A pandemic can be both a noun and an adjective (e.g., a pandemic disease)

panic buyers (see over-responders)

*physical distancing (see social distancing)
Physical distancing is an alternative term for social distancing. Its use is being increasingly encouraged by some health professionals because the term emphasizes the importance of maintaining the physical distance between people to help stop the spread of the disease. The term also emphasizes that people should still socialize using digital technology and social media while they are separated physically.

*patient zero
Patient zero refers to the person who is identified as the first person infected with a communicable disease during an outbreak. Related terms are index cases and index patients. An index case is the first known case of an infectious or genetic disease in a group of cases; the affected person is the index patient.
*quarantine (see self-quarantine, voluntary quarantine)
Quarantine is strict isolation imposed to prevent the spread of disease. In public health, people are placed in quarantine when they are not currently sick but have been or may have been exposed to a communicable disease. This helps stop the spread of the disease.
Respiration is the breathing, inhalation, and exhalation of air. Respiratory means “pertaining to respiration,” as in a respiratory disease like COVID-19.

*respirator (see ventilator)
A respirator is a masklike device, usually of gauze, worn over the mouth (or nose and mouth) to prevent the inhalation of noxious substances or the like.
To help protect them from COVID-19, health professionals, wear respirators to filter out virus particles as they breathe in, so they don’t get infected and can help patients. For these professionals, the CDC recommends explicitly using what is called N95 respirators, which fit more tightly around the nose and mouth than medical or surgical masks.

Shuttering and stay-at-home orders transformed parents into homeschoolers!


safer at home (see stay at home order)
According to Victoria Beltran,, "A safer-at-home order urges residents to stay in their homes and only go outside for essential services or activities.Those essential services or activities may include going to buy groceries, picking up medications or participating in recreational activities such as walking or biking.

A safer-at home order also allows for non-essential businesses to remain open as long as they can either 'limit capacity or self-imposed physical distancing in their store,' according to the National League of Cities."

Thousands of sewists engaging in mask-making and shipping to our medical heroes!
sewing army
Sewing army refers to the grassroots efforts of thousands of volunteers around the globe organized in local and national groups, many through social media, to make masks.

Sewist is a relatively new term combining the words “sew” and “artist.” It surfaced to national awareness from the Sewing Army’s volunteer efforts to mean anyone who sews; a sewist doesn’t have to be a professional seamstress or tailor.  


*shelter-in-place (see stay at home)
In general, shelter-in-place is an order to stay in a safe place indoors due to an emergency (e.g., extreme weather, chemical hazard) until given permission by authorities to evacuate. The specifics of a shelter-in-place order varies depending on the emergency.

During the coronavirus outbreak, shelter-in-place refers to orders for people to stay at home and not leave unless absolutely necessary. They are put in place to prevent the further spread of the disease and allow health professionals to treat patients more effectively.

sHero (see hero)
The winds of COVID-19 fiercely roared into March with the most global cases and deaths reported because Italy reached its apex. March is International Women’s History Month so it seems appropriate to use sHero to describe the bravery, strength, and courage demonstrated by women past and present. American poet Maya Angelou better explains that “A hero is any person intent on making this a better place for all people.”

Italians start spirited group singalongs during the coronavirus shutdown.

shutdown (see lockdown)
A shutdown is a government’s mandatory, stay-at-home directive under penalty of jail and fines for noncompliance depending on the state or country. At the time of this blog post, the states of New York, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, and Maryland are shutdown. (Sadly, my home state of Florida is not--only a stay at home order.)

shutter, shuttering (see stay-at-home order)

*social distance, social distancing (see physical distancing and hunkering down)
Social distancing refers to measures that reduce contact between large groups of people. Social distancing measures often entail canceling big gatherings (such as conferences, classes, church services, concerts, and sporting events), restricting mass transit and travel and working from home.

The CDC recommends explicitly maintaining a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) between people. (That’s the size of an adult moose in case you were wondering.) During the coronavirus outbreak, people commonly spoke or wrote of hunkering down at home as they practiced social distancing.

stay-at-home order (see safer-at-home order)
"A stay-at-home order, while similar to a safer-at-home-order, can include more aggressive measures. For instance, non-essential businesses are forced to close despite having the ability to prevent person-to-person spread, as set by the CDC’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.

Another measure that can be taken in a stay-at-home order is that residents can get into legal trouble if they violate any of the restrictions." -Victoria Beltran,

super-spreader, or superspreader is a person infected with a pathogen (such as a virus, bacterium, or other microorganisms that produces a disease) and spreads it to an unusually large number of individuals who aren’t infected.

 A symptom is a phenomenon that arises from and accompanies a particular disease or disorder and serves as an indication of it. Major symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, fatigue, and difficulty breathing.

TP is an acronym for toilet paper. The over-responders started hoarding toilet paper early on when the WHO deemed COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines triage as “a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment. Triage is used in hospital emergency rooms, on battlefields, and at disaster sites when limited medical resources must be allocated.

There are triage colors; this advanced triage system involves a color-coding scheme using red, yellow, green, white, and black tags: Red tags - (immediate) are used to label those who cannot survive without immediate treatment, but who have a chance of survival.”

Under-responders are those disobeying public health guidance -- the ones who consider themselves invulnerable. They aren’t following social distancing because they believe they won’t get sick, even though it could prevent more vulnerable people from becoming infected.

*ventilator, ventilate (see respirator)
ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe. It pumps oxygen into the lungs and removes carbon dioxide through a tube.
In medicine, ventilate can refer to oxygenating the blood (i.e., supplying it with oxygen) or helping someone breathe using a mechanical ventilator.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease and can cause lung inflammation, which makes it hard for patients to breathe. That’s why ventilators are necessary to help treat some patients with the infection, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Ventilators are sometimes referred to as respirators. However, ventilators technically refer to machines that help patients breathe, not the protective respirators nurses and doctors wear.

A virus is an infectious agent that replicates only within the cells of living hosts, mainly bacteria, plants, and animals. Viruses are composed of an RNA or DNA core, a protein coat, and, in more complex types, a surrounding envelope. They are ultramicroscopic, 20 to 300 nanometers (nm) in length. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. Viruses are also metabolically inert, which is why they only can replicate themselves in cells of living hosts. COVID-19 spreads through droplets from the mouth and nose of a person with COVID-19 after coughing, sneezing, exhaling, talking, etc.

*viral load
Viral load is the amount of a virus in a sample, especially a person’s blood or other bodily fluids. Viral load is typically measured as the number of virus particles per milliliter. The term viral load is especially used about the amount of HIV in a person’s blood.

Voluntary quarantine (see self-quarantine, quarantine)

WHO (World Health Organization)
The WHO is a United Nations agency based in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the WHO, its main role is… to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system. Our main areas of work are a health system, health through the life-course, noncommunicable and communicable disease, preparedness, surveillance and response, and corporate services.

walking well
Walking well is defined as a person who suspects that they are (or might actually be) asymptomatic with COVID-19. Many people have visited hospitals and told to return for testing when more definite symptoms persist. Individuals can also be tested if able to prove that they’ve been around a person diagnosed with the coronavirus.

washing hands (handwashing)


Zoonotic means “relating to any disease of animals communicable to humans.” The noun form is a zoonosis. The source of COVID-19 is believed to be an animal, which makes it a zoonotic disease.

Key of Sources: 
* and **

Thank you in advance for commenting and sharing the new words that you learned or made you giggle.

Mom and I modeling the first two masks. We started making our masks following the airline’s directive once you're ready for take-off: 
“You can’t help others if you don’t have your mask on.” 
Roger that.

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