top of page


Because there are many different scientific terms associated with this public health crisis, here is a brief glossary of terms we will be using throughout this website:



The worldwide spread of a disease that affects large numbers of people. Note that upgrading from an “epidemic” to a “pandemic” doesn’t necessarily mean the disease is more dangerous, just that it is no longer confined to one region. 


Social Distancing

Measures taken to remain out of public spaces, avoid mass gatherings and maintain distance (approximately 6 feet) from others when possible.



Separation from others of a person reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease, but who is not yet exhibiting symptoms.



Separation from others of a person reasonably believed to have been infected with a communicable disease.


Incubation Period

The time it takes for symptoms to appear in an infected person.


Community Transmission

When a virus spreads from person to person outside healthcare settings, meaning people who do not believe they are infected could be passing on the virus to others.



Sets of actions (like isolation and quarantine) that public health officials use to stop the spread of a disease.



Sets of actions (like social distancing) that persons and communities can take to slow the spread of respiratory virus infections. 


Shelter in Place

An official order requiring people to stay at home as much as possible and avoid even small social gatherings; banning all nonessential travel; and directing businesses except those providing “essential services” — like grocery stores and pharmacies — to close.


Sources: The New York Times, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Society for Microbiology, CAL Matters

bottom of page