A lexicon of COVID-19 terms

The unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19 have brought dozens of new terms into popular use and put some old ones in a new light.

Essential workers
People who need to go to work during the pandemic to provide critical goods and services, such as food and healthcare. Also known as community heroes.

Flattening the curve
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 to prevent a massive spike in cases. (Which Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada’s, put a fitness spin on by calling it planking the curve.)

Hot spots
Locations where the concentration of COVID-19 cases is especially high.

A mask or respirator that can filter out a minimum of 95% of airborne particles, per the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Physical distancing
Preventing the spread of the virus by keeping a minimum of two metres of distance between people.

Personal protective equipment: the masks, gloves and other gear that protect people, especially frontline healthcare workers, from exposure to the virus.

Term originating in Italy literally meaning “forty days”, which was how long people on ships had to wait before going ashore during the Black Death plague of the 1300s. Used loosely to refer to sheltering in place during the COVID-19 ‘”lockdown” (another popular term).

Any alcoholic cocktail you make for yourself while stuck at home, with whatever you have on hand, and possibly consumed during daytime hours while trying to home-school kids.

A broad term referring not only to getting the economy up and running again but generally shifting toward people being out and about.

Shelter in place
Originally an instruction for what to do in case of a nuclear, chemical or biological incident: stay in the building you’re in and wait until you’re told it’s safe to leave. Adopted by public health officials and politicians in the COVID-19 period to instruct people to stay home and avoid public places.

The invisible spray of moisture droplets that trails behind a runner or cyclist as they move — which experts cautioned people to steer clear of when exercising outside.

Speaking moistly
A term coined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, referring to the phenomenon of releasing saliva when talking — which spawned this gem of a video.