Mayor Hancock urges the feds to improve PPE distribution as the city runs out

Though there are materials in transit, the city has gotten only a fraction of the requested equipment.
3 min. read
An array of medical masks on a bed at St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Mayor Michael Hancock has joined dozens of mayors in calling on the federal government to improve distribution of personal protective equipment to municipalities to address the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the city had run out of PPE equipment, including N-95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves and face shields, to distribute to its employees and partnering groups.

A letter the mayors signed calls on the feds to create a “medical equipment czar” to oversee the national stockpile and distribution of supplies and to ramp-up production of PPE. It calls for additional steps like improved supply monitoring and providing more information to state and local governments including details about PPE needs and allocation.

Hancock said he’s been calling for more PPE since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The reality is that we have been struggling with the equipment necessary and have had to turn to other means and be a little more resilient, and quite frankly, entrepreneurial in finding our way forward,” Hancock said during a conference call Wednesday.

Mayor Michael Hancock announces improvements to services for people experiencing homelessness. Dec. 4, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The letter was organized by the CoPIRG Foundation, a Denver-based consumer watchdog group. The group’s director, Danny Katz, joined Hancock during an online conference call.

Katz said cities and states are basically competing against for supplies from the feds.

Hancock called the lack of foresight for the potential pandemic “an embarrassment” for the country, saying the federal government “completely failed” to prepare the nation because the White House was in denial about a potential pandemic. He praised Gov. Jared Polis for his handling of the outbreak.

Denver has spent $11 million on supplies, equipment and facilities in response to the pandemic, according to an internal memo to city government employees obtained by Denverite.

Hancock noted the city has received just a fraction of the PPE it’s requested. 

The city’s Joint Information Center said in an email to Denverite these items are requested from the federal government, the state and other agencies, as well as private vendors.

For example, the city received 18,640 N-95 masks as of Tuesday but asked for 77,394. An additional 322,555 masks are on order, including at least 20,000 scheduled to arrive this month, according to the latest emergency situation report, which details the city’s response to the virus and equipment stockpile. The city has also requested nearly 1 million surgical masks.

The city is expecting a shipment of additional N-95 masks (600) and gloves (3,000) on Wednesday, according to the report. New shipments of surgical masks and gowns are expected Friday, while the newest shipment of face shields is scheduled for April 14.

As of Tuesday, the city has distributed the following PPE:

  • 18,640 N-95 masks
  • 25,000 surgical masks
  • 10,266 gowns
  • 74,950 gloves
  • 4,608 face-shields

Hancock said PPE isn’t just used for medical professionals, but people working with vulnerable populations like people experiencing homelessness.

Griff McClure packs food into boxes at the Mental Health Center of Denver. April 3, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

“Criteria examples are First Responders, Hospitals, contact with people, shelter workers among others,” the JIC said in an email. “Our priority is always making sure people safe and taken care off.”

Got extra PPE supplies? You can donate them.

PPE and disinfectants can be donated to the city. Drop off unused goods at Parks & Recreation Maintenance Building, at 4495 North Jason St., Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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