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COVID-19 symptoms or exposure? Find out what to do if you or a close contact have symptoms or think you may have been exposed.

Glossary of terms

COVID-19 Terminology and Definitions

There are many different technical and legal terms that have been utilized in official governmental guidance, media reports, and throughout the general public with respect to the 2019-nCoV (2019 Novel Coronavirus) and the resulting COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).

Patient Status Definitions

  • Confirmed: The patient meets all the criteria necessary to be considered a Patient Under Investigation (PUI), including signs, symptoms and travel history. A lab sample was collected and tested by a CDC-qualified laboratory and the result is positive.
  • Suspected: The patient meets all the criteria necessary to be considered a Patient Under Investigation (PUI), including signs, symptoms and travel history. A lab sample was collected and sent to a CDC-qualified lab, but the results are still pending.
  • Exposed: The person meets the criteria established by the CDC with regards to travel history and/or close contact with a confirmed case, but the individual is not exhibiting any additional signs or symptoms consistent with infection.

Protective Action Definitions

  • Treatment: A person is currently receiving active medical treatment for their COVID-19 symptoms and/or related complications.
  • Isolation: This involves separating ill persons from well persons.
  • Quarantine: This involves separating well persons, who have been exposed to the infection, from other well persons during the incubation period of an illness.
  • Monitoring: A state or local public health authority establishes regular communication with a person or group of people who were potentially exposed to the virus by virtue of travel history to identified locations or close contact with confirmed cases. The person is instructed to monitor for and report certain signs and symptoms of potential illness to the health authority.  There are no movement restrictions applied to this individual.

Legal Status Definitions

  • Voluntary: The person has voluntarily agreed to comply with legally enforceable directives issued under the authority of a relevant federal, state, or local entity that, when applied to a person or group, may place restrictions on the activities undertaken by that person or group, potentially including movement restrictions or a requirement for monitoring by a public health authority, for the purposes of protecting the public’s health.
  • Involuntary: The person has been compelled by a court order to abide by legally enforceable directives issued under the authority of a relevant federal, state, or local entity that, when applied to a person or group, may place restrictions on the activities undertaken by that person or group, potentially including movement restrictions or a requirement for monitoring by a public health authority, for the purposes of protecting the public’s health.
  • Non-legal: The person is not subject to any legally enforceable directives. The person voluntarily agrees to adhere to non-binding guidance provided by public health or healthcare officials.

Supervision Level Definitions

  • Direct Medical: the person is under the direct continuous clinical care of a healthcare provider in a clinical setting (e.g. inpatient at a hospital or isolated to a government facility).
  • Public Health Supervision: the person is monitored directly by local public health authorities, in-person or remotely, on a regular basis (e.g. daily).
  • Delegated Supervision: The local public health authority has delegated oversight to an appropriate occupational health or infection control program at a trusted organization (e.g. healthcare, higher education, corporation). The delegated supervisor maintains coordination with the public health department of local jurisdiction.
  • Self: The person is instructed to monitor themselves for and report certain signs and symptoms of potential illness to the healthy authority.

Location Definitions

  • Hospital: The patient is admitted to a hospital.
  • Government: The person has been relocated to a government-controlled facility.
  • Congregate: The person has been relocated to any other congregate type setting (e.g. long term care facility, public housing, university housing) administered by routine operating authorities.
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