Where is Denver’s personal protective equipment going?

More than 430,000 pieces of PPE have been distributed, but the city couldn’t immediately say how much has been requested.

The City of Denver opened a 300-bed women's auxiliary shelter on Monday, April 20, 2020, with plans to run it in the same way as a similar men's shelter at the National Western Complex. Anyone seeking shelter there will be screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering. Once inside they'll have access to cots, portable showers, medical triage and other amenities. Charles Gifford III, a senior advisor to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, sorts blankets to be used on cots. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

The City of Denver opened a 300-bed women's auxiliary shelter on Monday, April 20, 2020, with plans to run it in the same way as a similar men's shelter at the National Western Complex. Anyone seeking shelter there will be screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering. Once inside they'll have access to cots, portable showers, medical triage and other amenities. Charles Gifford III, a senior advisor to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, sorts blankets to be used on cots. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

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.

A screenshot showing the amount of PPE distributed by Denver. (Courtesy of the Joint Information Center)

A screenshot showing the amount of PPE distributed by Denver. (Courtesy of the Joint Information Center)

 

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.

Colorado National Guardsmen Airman First Class John Boyle maps out the Rodeway Inn on Zuni Street as it's transformed into housing for people living in homelessness. April 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado National Guardsmen Airman First Class John Boyle maps out the Rodeway Inn on Zuni Street as it's transformed into housing for people living in homelessness. April 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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.

Denver is now operating two auxiliary shelters for the homeless, one for men at the National Western Complex, and one pictured here for women at the Coliseum. The facilities offer respite, screening for coronavirus, and sleeping areas that adhere to social distancing rules. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

Denver is now operating two auxiliary shelters for the homeless, one for men at the National Western Complex, and one pictured here for women at the Coliseum. The facilities offer respite, screening for coronavirus, and sleeping areas that adhere to social distancing rules. (Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)

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.

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