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COVID-19 Glossary

With so much seemingly conflicting information available about COVID-19, including issues related to medical terminology, testing, contact tracing and more, we put together this helpful COVID-19 page. The information should provide a clearer understanding of how our health officials define certain terms, how they operate and how they report COVID-19 cases.


Novel Coronavirus (2019) – On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

Testing – there are a variety of testing methods used by medical professionals to determine if a person has contracted COVID-19; the following tests indicate a person had the virus at the time of testing:

  • Nasalphangeal swab
  • Oral (cheek) swab

Note: An antibody (or antigen) test, done through a blood draw, will only show that a person has the COVID-19 antibodies and has had the virus at some point in the past. This test cannot confirm the virus is currently active within that individual.

Contact Tracing – a method by which health officials try to trace back the virus to a common point of origin; it is also used to inform people who may have had exposure to a person with the virus. Contact tracing for COVID-19 typically involves:

  • Interviewing people with COVID-19 to identify everyone with whom they had close contact during the time they may have been infectious,
  • Notifying contacts of their potential exposure,
  • Referring contacts for testing,
  • Monitoring contacts for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and
  • Connecting contacts with services they might need during the self-quarantine period.

Lab-confirmed Cases – Hays County uses this term to describe confirmed (tested) cases of COVID-19 that were reported to the Local Health Department.

Negative – A test that came back negative for currently having COVID-19 that was reported to the Local Health Department.

Pending – The number of COVID-19 test results of which the the Local Health Department is aware.

Active – Cases where an individual currently has the virus though they may be asymptomatic.

Hospitalizations – The number of people who have been hospitalized at any time during the pandemic and who has or had a positive case of COVID-19. Note: Hays County Local Health Department can only report information it is provided, either by a lab, provider or hospital. 

Current Hospitalizations – individuals who are currently in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 or COVID-19 related illnesses. Note: Hays County Local Health Department can only report information it is provided, either by a lab, provider or hospital. 

Fatality – an individual whose death is attributed to a COVID-related issue.

Methods & Definitions

Contact tracing – Hays County conducts an initial contact investigation whereby a patient who tests positive for the virus is asked to provide information about who they may have come in contact with and where over the past 5-7 days. The health department attempts to contact those individuals.

Our team also uses what is known as “crowd sourcing” to assist in informing people who may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus; this method requests the individual who tested positive to inform anyone he/she may have been in contact with over the past 5-7 days.

The County is currently utilizing the services of Texas Health Trace through Texas Department State Health Services.

Hospitalization tracking – when the Local Health Department receives notification that a Hays County resident is hospitalized due to COVID-19, regardless of where they are physically placed, we still count them in our hospitalization numbers. For example, Joe Jones is hospitalized but ends up at a Seton facility in Austin. We report 20 people are in the hospital and he would be one of those 20.

City – our cases of positive (overall) and active (currently) are reported in the updates Monday – Friday. Individuals who live in Hays County, even if they have an address that does not seem to be in the county, are counted in those totals, (e.g., some people live in Hays but have an Austin address). Health departments around the region work together to properly identify cases so they can be accurately reported to the appropriate county. If someone got tested in another county but resides in Hays County, that individual is counted in Hays County.


The Hays County Local Health Department now clears positive cases as recovered after 21 days. In the earlier months of the pandemic, health department staff contacted and followed up with every person who tested positive for COVID-19 to ensure they, or other household contacts, were not still contagious before moving them into the “Recovered” category. To be more in synch with how other counties around Central Texas count someone as “Recovered”, the team implemented the protocol to clear individuals three weeks after they test positive .

Tests results – Hays County has only reported positive cases from nasal or cheek swabs, not from antibody tests. We do not combine the totals for the different types of tests.

Find information about COVID-19:

Vaccine FAQ

We know there are many questions along with confusion and even misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. See the Department of State Health Services FAQs:

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Hays County