Translation: Terms Relating to COVID-19

Disclaimer: Queering Medicine is a community collaborative that includes community leaders and health professionals. This document serves to compile a list of terms that may be relevant to the current public health landscape and translate them for the public to use. All terms are within the context of public health and included are some links with additional information. We are not a health authority and maintain that the best thing you can do is to connect with LGBTQIA+ leaders in your local area. Asking for help, recognizing you are limited in your skills and knowledge is a strength we encourage folks to foster within themselves and their agencies. 

For a Google Doc with this information, please see this link.


This stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019.


This is a large family of viruses. Examples include the common cold and COVID-19.

Social Distancing Measures

If your school has canceled in-person classes or if your work has reduced hours or required you to work from home, they are taking what are called “social distancing measures.” These actions or “measures” are taken to restrict when and where people can gather to slow or stop the spread of disease. More information available here:

This includes the current “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order in Michigan, detailed below, as well as taking the necessary actions:

Infectious Disease

An infectious disease is a disease that can be spread, directly (example: body fluids from a sneeze from one person onto another person) or indirectly (examples: touching a surface with the disease on it or getting the disease from a bug bite), from one person or animal to another person.


A disease that is contagious is spread from person to person. A contagious disease is always infectious, but an infectious disease is not necessarily contagious.

Contact Tracing

Identifying people who have come in contact with a person with the disease to collect more information. A public health department may reach out to these “contacts” for monitoring, testing, and treatment.


Separation of people with the disease from people without the disease 


Separates and restricts the movement of people who are not yet sick but who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they get sick


An outbreak, in public health terms, is when there are more cases of a disease than expected in a community or region of the world. This can include one person with a disease in a community where the disease has never been seen before.  


An epidemic is when a disease has spread to a larger geographical area affecting a lot of people in that area.


A pandemic is a term used when a disease has spread from person to person over a large area, usually over many countries, continents, or all over the world. A pandemic is more about how widespread a disease is, not how deadly a disease may be. This is different from an outbreak or epidemic in that it has affected more people in a much larger part of the world. 

Cancer, as an example, is seen all over the world and affects many people. It is not, however, a pandemic because it is not infectious and can’t be spread from person to person.

As of March 11, 2020, the “coronavirus,” or COVID-19 has been declared as a pandemic. 

“Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order

This order is sometimes referred to as a “stay-at-home” order or other similar terms, has gone into effect in several states and may vary a bit from state to state. The intent is to further stop the spread of COVID-19. Here in Michigan, the order states that all Michigan Businesses and operations must temporarily stop all in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life and that all Michiganders must stay in their homes unless they’re part of a critical infrastructure workforce or through other means listed below: 



This will be effective beginning March 24, 2020 at 12:01am until April 13, 2020 at 11:59pm pending any further updates. More details at