The city has distributed 431,806 pieces of personal protective equipment, including N-95 masks, surgical masks, gowns, gloves and face shields, to city and partnering organizations from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, according to data released Tuesday.
The PPE has gone to safety-department agencies like police, fire and sheriffs; paramedics; homeless shelters and providers; assisted living facilities; and hospitals. PPE is crucial in the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus that has killed 91 people in Denver.
What Tuesday’s data release doesn’t show? How much each department has requested.
City spokesperson Loa Esquilin-Garcia said Denver is keeping track of where PPE is going but has not compiled information on individual requests from city agencies and partnering organizations. She said compiling that information would take weeks and would only be available through an open-records request, which we’ve filed.
As of April 7, the most recent information available, the city has spent more than $3 million on medical equipment and supplies.
It’s spent an additional $1,346,044 on workplace safety and cleaning supplies like hand sanitizer, toilet paper and hand-washing stations during the same time span. According to Monday’s city situation report, Denver has to date spent $19.3 million overall on its COVID-19 response.
The city does not stockpile PPE, distributing it quickly after receiving it, said Executive Director of the Office of Emergency Management Matthew Mueller during a press conference on Monday.
Monday’s situation report showed the city didn’t have N-95 masks or gowns on hand. It did have more than 200,000 surgical masks, at least 3,600 gloves and 5,000 face shields, but those materials are earmarked for distribution. Esquilin-Garcia declined to say how much PPE the city had before the pandemic.
Mueller said Denver has received shipments from the federal government’s stockpile but has also been getting PPE through private vendors. In all, the city has requested 85,132 N-95 masks, 1,033,524 surgical masks, 198,821 gowns, 387,044 gloves and 65,691 face shields. It has received 40,880 N-95 masks, 340,750 surgical masks, 10,266 gowns, 271,800 gloves and 11,758 face shields.
Providers serving the homeless community said it took weeks to get PPE from the city.
Kristen Baluyot is the Denver metro social services director for the Salvation Army, which operates Crossroads Center, the largest shelter in Denver. She said city staff, including Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher, met with the Homeless Leadership Council, which represents the largest shelter providers in Denver, on March 11 to discuss its PPE needs.
Baluyot said Crossroads had been receiving materials like paper towels from the city before its first PPE shipment, on April 11. The shipment didn’t have everything it had requested, she said, but included hand sanitizer, 100 face masks, 400 gloves and two rolls of disinfectant wipes for Crossroads Center, which offers 211 beds.
However, Baluyot said the delay wasn’t likely the city’s fault, since Denver, like other cities and states, has been struggling to procure PPE.
“The city has had really great intentions,” Baluyot said. “I believe that was their heart in asking us and wanting to support our various shelters in the community.”
Denver Rescue Mission President/CEO Brad Meuli said it hasn’t received any PPE from the city despite requesting some. It has since found PPE through other avenues.
Like Baluyot, Meuli said he doesn’t blame the city for not sending any PPE.
“I think everyone was totally unprepared for what was gonna happen,” he said.
Michael Britton, vice president of the Denver’s Fraternal Order of Police sheriff’s union, recently told Denverite that sheriffs are getting “old and outdated” equipment.
“It’s breaking on these guys and they’re afraid of taking this stuff home to their families and we’re already short as it is,” Britton said.