COVID-19 Terms Glossary

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of new words and phrases into our everyday vocabulary.

Here's some of the important to terms to know. 


Having mild to no symptoms of COVID-19 but still testing positive for the virus.


Having symptoms of COVID-19 ranging from mild to severe:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath of difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

A case refers to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

A person is considered a case where they are experiencing no symptoms or severe symptoms of the virus

Being within 6 feet (or 12 feet if exerting oneself: yelling, singing, exercising) of a case for at least 15 minutes or more throughout a 24-hour period–regardless of if a mask was worn.

Testing is recommended 5-7 days (ideally on the seventh day) after coming in contact (unless this person develops symptoms, in which case testing is recommended as soon as possible).

Learn more about Close Contact.

Someone may qualify for a 10-day shortened quarantine period if they meet specific criteria pertaining to their exposure to the virus:

  • Must be Asymptomatic
  • Cannot be currently living with their close contact that exposed them to the virus (applies to all students living on- & off-campus)
  • Cannot be working in healthcare
  • Must have had a One-Time Contact with a Confirmed Case

Students who are currently quarantining may email Ask-A-Nurse at with an explanation of how they have met each.

7-day quarantine guidelines do not apply to college students as advised by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Student athletes may have stricter or different criteria, so please call Ask-A-Nurse with any questions at 507.457.2292.

Learn more about Early Release from Quarantine.

A practice where someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 keeps away from others to prevent spreading the virus. This person is now referred to as a case.

The isolation period lasts for at least 10 days. A case may come out of isolation after 10 days have passed with symptoms improving and being fever free for 24 hours (without the use of fever reducing medication).

Technical Definition: The practice of separating sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.

What Does it Mean to be in Isloation?

  • Stay home and do not go out into public
  • Stay away from other members in your household
  • Wear a facemask during every interaction with your caretaker
  • Avoid sharing personal household items such as bedding, towels and dishes

Learn more about difference between isolation and quarantine.

To lay low means to be be extra vigilant and mindful of your interactions with others by:

  • Decreasing the number of people you come in contact with
  • Decreasing the duration of interactions with others
  • Limiting your number of outings into public spaces

This is in addition to normal COVID-19 guidelines of masking up, backing up, washing up, checking up & checking in.

In a modified quarantine phase, all in-person activities are limited to those that are essential.

However there may be specific modifications and exceptions to various groups, such as student athletes.

What Can You Do in a Modified Quarantine?

  • Go to Classes -- in-person classes are considered essential
  • Go to Work -- teleworking is recommended
  • Get Essential Needs -- online delivery and curbside pick-up recommended
  • Seek Health Care -- going to a doctor, stopping by a pharmacy, getting tested or other health care service
  • Get Food or Groceries -- curbside pick-up & to-go options recommended

The practice where someone who has had close contact with a case keeps away from others. This person is referred to as a contact.

The ideal quarantine period is 14 days from last contact. Someone may come out of quarantine after 14 days if they have not developed symptoms nor have been re-exposed to a case.

Technical Definition: The practice of separating and restricting the movement of people who have come in close contact of a contagious disease to see if they become ill.

What Does it Mean to be in Quarantine?

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Use online services to get essential needs
  • If you need to go out into public to run essential errands, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, wash hands often, and avoid touching your face

Testing is recommended 5-7 days (ideally on the seventh day) after coming in contact (unless this person develops symptoms, in which case testing is recommended as soon as possible).

Learn more about difference between isolation and quarantine.

In a self-imposed quarantine phase, you decide to quarantine safely alone and on your own. For example, you might self-quarantine before and after traveling due to the increased risk of exposure.

A self-imposed quarantine is different from a campus-wide quarantine determined by WSU or a lock-down period issued by the State of Minnesota.

A slow roll phase means starting with no in-person activities.

Then more activities are slowly introduced in 2-week increments if we continue to see steady and manageable COVID-19 caseload numbers.