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May 14, 2020

Philly surpasses 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 as city forms recovery office

Health commissioner says social distancing actions have mitigated effects of coronavirus

Illness COVID-19
Philly 1000 Deaths Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

More than 1,000 people in Philadelphia have now died from COVID-19, city officials announced on Thursday. The city has confirmed more than 19,000 cases of COVID-19

Philadelphia has surpassed 1,000 deaths caused by COVID-19, a grim reminder that recent progress in the coronavirus pandemic has come amid a heavy human cost. 

Mayor Jim Kenney offered condolences Thursday to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives over the last two months, adding that the death toll should reinforce the need to maintain social distancing measures.

"Crossing the threshold of 1,000 deaths is a stark reminder of the need to stay vigilant about social distancing practices," Kenney said. "So remember — stay at home, wear face coverings when you do go out, and stay safe.”

Philadelphia reported 314 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the city's total to 19,093. An additional 22 fatalities brought the city's total to 1,008, including 544 nursing home residents.

"One thousand deaths is many deaths," Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. "That's happened in just a few weeks. That's almost as many deaths as we have from the opioid crisis over a period of an entire year."

Farley reiterated that Philadelphia is clearly on the downslope in both new COVID-19 infections and deaths. He cited a study by the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative that used a model to estimate the number of deaths Philly has prevented as a result of social distancing and other restrictions.

"They came up with the estimate that in the first 45 days (of the crisis), we've prevented 6,200 deaths," Farley said. "You could argue about the exact number, but it's very clear that the actions we're taking are preventing many, many deaths. We need to continue to do that in order to prevent more deaths in the future."

Kenney again stressed the importance of residents wearing masks when they are outside or in public places.

"I'm shocked at the number of people who don't have masks on," Kenney said. "We need to continue to pound that away because that is one of the really simple and easy and unselfish ways to stop this virus."

Philly forms recovery office to navigate economic challenges

The city has established the COVID-19 Recovery Office to coordinate efforts to secure federal money that will continue to assist the region, officials announced.

“A public health and economic crisis of this magnitude requires a thoughtful and coordinated approach,” Kenney said. “With the formation of the COVID-19 Recovery Office, we will ensure that our city government is recovering its costs and maximizing the effectiveness of the numerous federal and state grants coming to Philadelphia.”

The office will be chaired by Deputy Finance Director Sarah de Wolf and Deputy Managing Director Chris Rupe.

One of the main functions of the new office will be to track federal legislation, grant awards and guidance from state and federal agencies. The office will work with stakeholders across city government to prepare applications and ensure that the program is designed with equity in mind.

Kenney recently urged Philadelphia's Congressional delegation to continue to push for federal resources that will assist in the city's recovery.

“While I am grateful for the help that has been provided to help the city recover its costs, we call on our lawmakers in Washington to take further action in the next federal relief bill to help cities like Philadelphia with the revenue shortfalls caused by this pandemic,” Kenney said. “With this assistance, we can ensure Philadelphia is best positioned to recover from this pandemic and thrive in the years ahead.”

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