It’s been one year since Philadelphia confirmed its first case of COVID-19. The world has changed for all of us in countless ways. 

While we needed to create physical distance between ourselves, in some ways the pandemic has brought Philadelphians closer together through this shared experience.

Over the past year, we’ve seen neighbors look out for other neighbors, residents step up and donate their time and resources to those in need, healthcare workers fight tirelessly for their patients, and essential workers help keep our city running. 

Throughout the pandemic, City of Philadelphia employees have worked hard to meet the new and changing needs of residents.

Here’s a look back on a few of the ways we responded to COVID-19.

We masked up 

two city employees wearing masks

Philadelphians ranked among top mask-wearers in the country.

We fed students and residents

person with a face shield and mask holding a box of food for families

In 2020 we distributed more than 16 million pounds of food through food distribution sites, and 7.7 million student meals. 470,000 meals were distributed to the unsheltered, 12,600 deliveries were made to people with disabilities, and 460,000 meals were distributed to seniors. We also created the map where residents can find free meals and food near them.

We activated our Emergency Operations Center

On March 11, 2020, the Office of Emergency Management activated the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC remains active today and OEM staff continue to work with all aspects of the pandemic response such as site selection for testing and vaccination sites, distributing PPE, standing up food sites, and much more.

They also have kept residents and businesses up-to-date by sending over 360 messages to nearly 85,000 Philadelphians who signed up for the city’s mass communication system, ReadyPhiladelphia.

We distributed PPE to front-line workers and care facilities

boxes of PPE donations with tags of where they are going to

We distributed critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers and care facilities. To date, EOC logistics staff has acquired and delivered over 85,000 pieces of PPE, which includes masks, gowns, sanitizer, and face shields.

We kept people in their homes

We launched the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, PHLRentAssist, to help keep residents in their homes. Through the first three phases of funding, the program has served more than 10,000 households.

We supported families and children

a student receiving a health prescreening outside an Access Center

We opened more than 70 Access Centers to serve the most vulnerable students in-person. Access Centers provide supervision, meals, and internet access for digital learning for K-6 graders. These sites serve about 1,200 students a day.

PHLConnectED has successfully closed the digital divide for more than 15,000 Kindergarten to 12th grade households by providing access to free, reliable internet service.

We enjoyed our city’s parks

Philadelphia Parks and Rec representatives hand out masks along the the trail

The pandemic helped many Philadelphians realize the importance of the city’s parks. Our 10,200 acres of parkland, including dozens of neighborhood parks, served as a green respite from hours spent inside. Parks & Recreation staff estimate at least a 50 percent jump in visitors to city parks during this year.

We supported local small businesses

two people dining outside

The Department of Commerce worked closely with partner organizations to do extensive outreach to commercial corridors, community development corporations, and neighborhood nonprofit groups to spread awareness of available financial resources and business assistance. Commerce has also helped direct an estimated $140 million in government, philanthropic, and private funding to Philadelphia’s small businesses and nonprofits since the start of the pandemic through a series of relief programs.

We opened a COVID-19 surge facility at the Liacouras Center 

liacouras center set up with hospital beds and machines

Through a partnership with Temple University, we opened the Liacouras Center to treat patients 18 and older who were COVID-positive and had been improving in area hospitals, but needed additional time to fully recover before they could return home. 

We volunteered to help

volunteers assembling boxes as part of the city's food distribution

One of the first questions we received from residents in the early days of COVID-19 was “how can I help?” Thousands of residents volunteered at food sites, became COVID-19 Community Response Captains, signed up for the Medical Reserve Corps, donated their old tech through PHLDonateTech, and more. 

We remembered those we’ve lost

The Philadelphia COVID-19 memorial artwork depicting birds within a heart

During the holidays, the City erected the custom-designed Remembrance Wall to honor all those we lost in 2020. The installation, entitled Healing Heart, is on display in the courtyard of City Hall. The artist, Ife Nii-Owoo, created a visually stunning piece of art that evokes warmth and honors the beautiful spirit of the Philadelphians we no longer have with us. The many small lightbulbs adorning the heart in her piece signify the light that was extinguished with each life lost. 

On January 19, we joined the nation in mourning and remembrance during the COVID Memorial by changing our skyline to a warm orange glow with cities across the country.

This year has brought so much change, pain, grief, and uncertainty but one thing has stayed constant—Philadelphians have continued to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately, save lives.

Thank you, Philly.