This post was written by Eric Westbrook, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement.

When it comes to COVID-19 coronavirus there are so many narratives about this deadly pandemic. From it being “man-made” or “media-hyped,” to it not impacting Black people at all, the misinformation surrounding it is at an all-time high. 

Our goal from the Mayor’s Office of Black Male Engagement is to be a trustworthy source to Black men and boys in Philadelphia by providing the most accurate and relevant updates for our community.  We hope that the information below clears up misconceptions, and that you will share this information with family, friends, and community members.

What is COVID-19 coronavirus aka “Rona”?

COVID-19 coronavirus is a new virus that was first discovered in 2019. It spreads when someone who is sick talks, coughs or sneezes, through close personal contact like touching or shaking hands, or by touching an object someone who is infected has touched. Although many people who get it are only mildly sick with cough and fever, some people become sick enough that they need to be hospitalized, and some people die from this infection.  But there are ways to help take care of yourself and your family if you get sick.

Should Black Men be concerned about COVID-19?

Absolutely. COVID-19 coronavirus seems to impact those with preexisting health conditions like diabetes, heart and lung disease that make it difficult for them to fight the virus. As a matter of fact, of the cases in which we have demographic data, Black deaths from COVID-19 outpace white deaths in the city. 

According to our 2018 Brotherly Love Health Report, more than 40 percent of Black men in Philadelphia have hypertension and other related illnesses. Black boys experience hospitalization for asthma at rates nine times higher than White boys. These persistent disparities show us the need to address the underlying causes of poor health for Black men.  These causes disproportionately coincide with higher rates of adverse childhood experiences, unemployment, incarceration, racial discrimination, and lower educational attainment.

COVID-19 coronavirus does NOT discriminate based on race, gender, or age. It knows no bounds. Anyone who is physically close to someone infected with COVID-19 coronavirus is at risk for catching the disease. A person can even appear healthy without any symptoms and pass it on to their loved ones or coworkers. 

How can you keep from catching COVID-19 coronavirus?

There is no vaccine against COVID-19 coronavirus, but there are simple things everyone can do to keep from getting it. 

  • Stay home as much as you can. If you do have to go out to get food or to work, stay at least 6 feet away from other people and wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20-30 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol
  • Try to not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • If you are sick, stay home and try to stay away from other people

Learn more about the symptoms and how to take care of yourself and your family

What should you do if you think you have COVID-19 coronavirus?

If you think you have COVID-19 coronavirus, there are a few things you should do.  If you have mild symptoms, you should stay home, rest, and avoid contact with others until you feel completely better. Because there is no medication for COVID-19, you are safer staying home with mild symptoms than going to a place where you might expose others or be exposed to others with the illness.

If you think you need to be tested for COVID-19, call your primary care provider’s office. You can learn where to get tested here. If you have other questions, call the COVID-19 helpline at 1- 800-722-7112

Why are we being required to stay-at-home? 

In response to the national, state and local declarations of emergency related to the coronavirus, Mayor Jim Kenney and Dr. Thomas A. Farley, Health Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia, issued a ‘Stay-at-home’ to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives. 

The order means that all Philadelphia residents must remain home or at their place of residence unless they are engaged in essential personal activities, like going out to purchase essential goods and food or seeking medical attention. 

Details in this order contain important information about social distancing rules for people and businesses in the City of Philadelphia.

What is social distancing?

Health experts strongly advise that we all practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing involves decreasing in-person contact with other people to reduce risk of spreading illness. Everyone should practice social distancing right now—not just those who are ill or high-risk.  This directive includes:


  • Staying home as much as possible.
  • Reducing the number of people you are around—the fewer, the better, but especially avoid groups of more than 10.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Six feet is about the length of a full-size bed.


This is not an attempt to manipulate or control our communities. This is an effort where we all play a role in saving lives – our own and our loved ones. 

How do I adjust to staying home all day? 

Taking care of your mental health during this time will be very important. Please stay connected with family and friends as much as possible via phone, text, email, or social media. Exercising and moving more at home, catching up on some reading, and even volunteering are just a few ways to feel productive. 

What if I still have to work?

We recognize that staying at home is not an option for many Philadelphians. However, if you must go out, wear a protective mask and keep your distance as much as possible. Your loved ones and coworkers need you healthy and safe. You can also carry hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in your car or on public transportation to keep your hands and surfaces clean.  Here’s additional advice for those who have to go to work during Covid-19.

Stay informed with trustworthy information

We are all doing our best to cope with these challenging times, but we know that systemic inequities and health disparities make coping with COVID-19 an even greater challenge for our communities of color, particularly our African American community. 

Our first move in this fight is ensuring that our community is armed with accurate information from reliable sources.

Below are some quick ways to stay informed: 

  • Get COVID-19 updates sent to your phone. Text COVIDPHL to 888-777 to receive free text alerts with info and updates from @PHLPublicHealth.
  • Residents with questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus can use the 24/7 helpline to talk to a medical professional. Call 800-722-7112
  • For the latest updates and information on COVID-19 in Philadelphia please visit

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