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COVID-19 Words Of Wisdom

New vocabulary everyone should know to stay safe during the pandemic

“As medical professionals, we choose our words wisely to keep people protected from harm,” said Dr. Jennifer Frank, ThedaCare Chief Medical Officer. “COVID-19 is a serious public health risk, so it’s important that everyone, everywhere be on-board with taking these terms seriously, so we need to make sure we all know what they mean.”

Following Dr. Frank’s advice, here are a few COVID-19 words and phrases all of us living in Northeast and Central Wisconsin would be wise to learn and live out:

Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19

Coronaviruses are part of a group of viruses that can make people sick – everything from the common cold to more severe diseases. People can present with mild to severe symptoms. “This current coronavirus spreading across the world from person-to-person is a new strain of a respiratory disease, not previously identified in humans, so that’s why it’s called ‘novel’ (nCoV),” Dr. Frank explained.

Coronavirus disease 2019 is abbreviated COVID-19.

  • “co” for corona
  • “vi” for virus
  • “d” for disease
  • “19” for the year it was first detected (December 2019)


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread rapidly between people. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide.” The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11.


The State of Wisconsin issued a stay-at-home order that took effect on March 25 and will remain in effect until May 26. It means residents are not to leave their homes unless necessary for such essential activities as grocery shopping, a medicine pick-up, banking or walking a dog. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) details the exceptions to the stay-at-home order, which is also known as shelter-in-place in some other states. More than three-fourths of the states have imposed these orders since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. “This is a preventive action people can take right now,” Dr. Frank said. State officials added this order will thwart “more individuals needing medical care and accelerating the possibility of exceeding Wisconsin’s health care resources.”

Social distancing

This is the practice of keeping at least six feet apart from other people and avoiding direct physical contact. “Currently, it’s proving to be the most effective means of slowing the rate of infection when you have to leave your home and interact with people for essential services such as health care or food,” Dr. Frank noted.


Wisconsin DHS defined this term as “when people are asked to stay home and avoid contact with others (for 14 days) because they may have been exposed to an infection but are not yet showing symptoms.” This is a preventive measure to see if they become sick. They could have been exposed due to traveling to an area of the world or country where there’s been a high concentration of COVID-19 cases, or due to being in close contact with a person who has been diagnosed with the illness. According to the CDC, it has been more than 100 years since such a large-scale order was made. It happened during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, which ended in December 1920, and is one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.  For people in self-quarantine, you are asked to “self-monitor.” If a test shows no signs of the virus after 14 days, you no longer have to stay in a contained place.


State officials explain this is when people are asked to check for symptoms like fever, cough, and others because they potentially have been exposed to an infection but are not yet showing symptoms. Dr. Frank added, “This is an important step to protect yourself and your family, and to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community.”


For people who have COVID-19 or highly suspect they do and are living in a home with multiple people – friends or family members – they are asked to separate themselves from others in the home. “It’s the best way to prevent exposure of this highly contagious disease to your loved ones,” Dr. Frank said. “Preferably, the infected person has their own bedroom and bathroom as well as eating utensils, which need to be washed separately. Also, always wear a face mask if someone is helping you heal, so you don’t pass on this coronavirus to them.”

Dr. Frank shared these final words, “We can’t just talk the talk. We need to walk the walk to beat COVID-19 and its impact on our world – physically, mentally, emotionally and economically. We can do this together.”