This post was written by Rue Landau, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and Romana Lee-Akiyama, Director of Multicultural Affairs, Office of Immigrant Affairs.


The COVID-19 virus can affect anyone. Acts of hate and discrimination against anyone based on their ethnicity or the perception that they are sick or a carrier of COVID-19 are illegal and are not tolerated in Philadelphia. Know the facts and stand up against hate!


Like every area of the United States and the world, Philadelphia has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. It is essential that Philadelphians know the latest information and follow healthy practices to reduce the spread of the virus.

Recent acts of hate and bias based on fear of the coronavirus—particularly against people in Asian communities—have occurred in our city. We must remember this is an illness that can affect anyone from any background.


What is the COVID-19 and how does it spread?

COVID-19 is a new kind of disease. The COVID-19 virus spreads from person to person through the air when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes, or through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands. It also could spread if someone touches an object with COVID-19 on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes. The best way to stop the spread of this disease is by staying at least six feet from others or practicing social distancing.

Get the latest information and tips on how to protect yourself from the virus from the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health:

Who can get and spread the virus? 

Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19 can get it. The virus has spread throughout the United States and the world. Ethnic backgrounds or where someone was born have nothing to do with who has or who can spread the virus.

What is a hate crime?

A hate crime is a criminal offense (e.g. vandalism, threats, and assault) that is motivated by prejudice or bias and is directed at people because of their real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability. These crimes should be reported immediately by calling 911.

What is a bias incident?

A bias incident is an act that is motivated by prejudice but is not a crime. This can include being called a derogatory name or seeing someone holding a sign with a racist message. While bias incidents are not criminal, they are offensive and may be discriminatory acts that are protected by law. They should always be reported.

What should I do to report acts of hate or bias against people based on the COVID-19 virus?

If you are a victim of any crime, you should call 911 to report it and get further assistance such as medical attention and victim services. To report non-emergency hate crimes and bias incidents related to fear of COVID-19, you should contact the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) at 215-686-4670 or You can report an incident in any language. Anonymous reports can be made to the PCHR hotline at 215-686-2856. You can find more information on PCHR’s website.

What should I do if I experience discrimination? 

If you believe you are being treated differently or experiencing discrimination from your employer, housing provider, businesses, or places open to the public (including schools and transportation) based on your actual or perceived race, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, any perceived disability, you should contact the PCHR at 215-686-4670 or by emailing You can make a report in any language. For more information on the process, or to download a complaint form, visit PCHR’s website.

Note: No one can be turned away from healthcare providers or emergency room care because of fear of the COVID-19 virus.


No one should live in fear because of who they are, where their family is from, or for being sick with the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.  

  • Bias prevention starts with you. Be an “upstander,” not a bystander. Take a stand against hate and intolerance at home, school, work, online, and in your community. All Philadelphians in every community are valuable, and they need our help and support.
    • Educate your community on the facts of COVID-19.
    • Urge people not to blame any ethnicity or community for the spread of the virus.
    • Reach out to your neighbors in every community and take care of each other during this time.
    • Report any acts of hate or bias at
    • File a complaint if you experience discrimination at PCHR’s website