If you didn’t use the term serology in casual conversation or know the difference between furloughs and layoffs, you’re not alone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we’ve all had to do a lot of Googling. To help you out, we created a glossary of health, government, finance and employee terms and definitions. Impress your coworkers with your new lingo and check out the definitions below.


  • Coronavirus: This term refers to a family of viruses that can infect people, ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The name comes from the virus’s shape, which appears to be surrounded by crown-like spikes.  The current pandemic is caused by a specific virus within this family, SARS-CoV-2.
  • COVID-19: Sometimes used interchangeably with coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 refers to the disease the virus causes.
  • Public health: The work of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health within a community. From conducting scientific research to educating about healthy choices, public health has been responsible for everything from seatbelt laws and vaccinations, to tackling the opioid epidemic. They also work to track and prevent the spread of infectious disease, as is the case with COVID-19. In SLO County, the Public Health Department is led by Dr. Penny Borenstein and is housed within the County government.
  • Antibody: specific proteins made in response to infections
  • Serology: the scientific study or diagnostic examination of blood serum, especially with regard to the response of the immune system to pathogens or introduced substances. The serology test you’ve been hearing about lately looks for the presence of antibodies which can be found in blood and in other tissues. The antibodies detected by this test indicate that a person had an immune response to the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Immunity: Immunity means exemption or resistance. If you’re protected against something, you have immunity to it. The presence of antibodies typically makes a person immune to reinfection for at least a while. But it is not yet clear what kind of protection is afforded by COVID-19 antibodies. According to the WHO, we don’t currently have evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from COVID-19 reinfection.
  • Vaccine: A vaccine stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies, like it would if you were exposed to the disease. After getting vaccinated, you develop immunity to that disease, without having to get the disease first. This is what makes vaccines such powerful medicine. Unlike most medicines, which treat or cure diseases, vaccines can prevent or lessen the symptoms of the disease if you do contract them.
  • Herd immunity: Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of the population becomes immune to a disease or virus, stopping its spread because there are so few people who can contract it. This typically happens through vaccination, not widespread infection. For example, herd immunity for the measles is achieved when 19 out of 20 people are vaccinated. Experts say too little is known about COVID-19 to ensure herd immunity would offer complete protection from infection so other factors like testing and tracing, social distancing and quarantining help stop respiratory diseases like COVID-19.
  • Pandemic: A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. A pandemic happens when a new virus emerges to infect people and can spread between them. Because there is little to no pre-existing immunity against the new virus, it spreads worldwide. The virus that causes COVID-19 is infecting people and spreading easily from person-to-person. Cases have been detected in most countries worldwide and community spread is being detected in a growing number of countries. On March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the WHO.
  • Flatten the curve: To keep doctors and hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with sick patients, public health authorities have been taking measures to “flatten the curve” or allow a more gradual rate of infection over a longer period of time (as opposed to a rapid spike in infections all at once).  (See a visual of this curve here.) This gives doctors, hospitals, and emergency responders time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed. In SLO County this has meant more time for procuring additional ventilators, assuring adequate testing capacity and setting up additional hospital beds, which ultimately translate to saved lives.
  • Physical Distancing: A key part of flattening the curve (see above) is physical distancing. Physical distancing keeps people farther apart, making every transmission opportunity a little less likely. This includes maintaining 6 feet of distance at grocery stores, as well as staggering work times or promoting telecommuting, when able.
  • Hitting the peak: The peak projects the date when a state or county’s new daily COVID-19 cases reach its highest point.  When this happens, the curve stops increasing and starts a trend downward.
  • Quarantine: Restricting the movement of people who seem healthy but may have been exposed to the virus is known as a quarantine. Those who had significant contact with someone who tested positive, for example, would be ordered to stay home for 14 days, which is believed to be the virus’s incubation period.
  • How hand washing works: The coronavirus is encased in a layer of fat called a lipid membrane. These membranes are studded with proteins which bind to your cells and allow the virus to infect you. Soap breaks that membrane down and renders the virus useless. In tandem, the mechanical motion of washing lifts the virus off your skin and washes it away. (Don’t have soap handy? Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is your second best option.)


  • Emergency declaration: Allows for activation of an Emergency Operations Center, paves the way for local jurisdictions to receive state and federal funding to battle the outbreak, facilitates coordination and mutual aid among partners, and gives administrators augmented authority to address COVID-related problems in a timely way. SLO County and all cities in the area have declared a local emergency.
  • Eviction moratorium: As the ability to shelter at home is paramount to flattening the curve, SLO County released an emergency order in March which ensures that no one is forced out of their home due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 (e.g. job loss, medical bills). This applies to both residential and commercial properties. This order does not absolve the tenant from paying rent, but allows them up to 6 months to pay rent after the local emergency is lifted. The order is in effect through May 31, though may be extended based on need. There is also a federal moratorium on evictions of single-family homeowners with federally backed mortgages. Check out this video for more details on options for renters and property owners.
  • CARES Act: Stands for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. This is the third aid package from Congress and is meant to keep businesses and individuals afloat during an unprecedented freeze on the majority of American life.
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act: It didn’t get a great acronym, but the FFCRA requires certain employers provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. See more details here.
  • Shelter at home: An order intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 in SLO County by ensuring that the maximum number of people self-quarantine in their places of residence to the maximum extent possible, while enabling essential services to continue. This does not prevent residents from going outside for walks or accessing essential services (such as shopping for groceries), but severely limits other activities that may unnecessarily put people in close contact.


  • Paycheck Protection Program: The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans  – AKA turn it into a grant – if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The initial $349B of funding was exhausted in just two weeks. A second replenishment, to the tune of $310B was passed by Congress on April 23. In order for the PPP loan to be forgiven a minimum of 75% must be used for payroll.
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan: Also part of the CARES Act, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or EIDL, offers up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
  • EIDL $10K Advance: Businesses that apply for the EIDL are also able to apply for a $10k advance. This advance will not have to be repaid, even if the applicant doesn’t end up being approved for a full loan. The advance will come through shortly after an application is received.
  • Small Business Administration: The SBA is the only cabinet-level federal agency fully dedicated to small business and provides counseling, capital, and contracting expertise as the nation’s only go-to resource for small businesses.
  • Small Business Development Center: Funded in part by the SBA, there are nearly 1,000 local SBDC’s across the country. Our local SBDC is a partnership with Cal Poly CIE and is working hard to help small businesses (under 500 employees) – completely free of charge. Sign up to become a client at https://ucmsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/signup.
  • What if I can’t pay my rent or mortgage? Call your landlord or lender to see if they are offering a grace period. Many small and large banks are giving homeowners 90 day deferments. Check out this video for more details on options for renters and property owners. 
  • $1200 from the gvt? As part of the $2 trillion federal CARES Act, the federal government included one time individual payments to curb some of the financial impact of coronavirus. They will total up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and $500 per child for families. The payments will start phasing out for individuals with incomes above $75,000, or $150,000 for couples. It will be based on your most recently filed tax return and if your direct deposit information is still the same, you don’t need to do a thing except wait. Payments started dropping in mid-April.


  • Furlough: An employer-mandated, temporary unpaid leave from work for a finite period of time. Employers can implement temporary furloughs for up to 10 days without triggering a “termination.”
  • Layoff: A temporary or permanent separation from a company’s payroll. You must pay all final wages and accrued vacation/PTO pay in the event of a layoff.
  • Workshare: The EDD Work Share Program enables employers to reduce pay and hours of work temporarily and provides employees with unemployment benefits, without the need for full job loss. This is a useful option for businesses that need temporary relief but expect to ramp up again.
  • ALE Employer: An ALE or Applicable Large Employer is an employer that has 50 or more full time and full time equivalent employees on average during the entire prior calendar year. For purposes of the Affordable Care Act, a full time employee is one who works 30 or more hours per week. Full time equivalent employees are calculated based on hours of service pursuant to IRS regulation. Companies that are part of a controlled group must aggregate employee totals.