Georgia officials aware of severe PPE shortages when state reopened, report says

Georgia officials knew of severe shortages of personal protective equipment before Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state would begin reopening its economy, according to documents obtained by Kaiser Health News

Before the governor announced the state's reopening  April 20, Georgia officials circulated documents that showed the state would need millions more masks, gowns and other supplies than it had on hand to get through the next month. On April 19, Georgia had 932,620 N95 masks and expected to need 7 million to get through the next month. 

Officials also expected to go through 16.1 million gowns in 30 days, but had only 21,810 on hand as of April 19, according to Kaiser Health News. 

Yet the governor made his announcement that the state would begin opening gyms, restaurants, hair salons, theaters and other businesses. 

"We have relied on data, science and the advice of healthcare professionals to guide our approach and decision-making," he said at the April 20 news conference announcing the reopening. 

A spokesperson for the governor told Kaiser Health News that the governor felt confident in the state's ability to meet daily PPE requests when the state began reopening and said the state has continued to meet PPE demand since April. The state also is building a PPE stockpile, he said. 

COVID-19 cases spiked in Georgia after it eased its lockdown, according to Kaiser Health News. At least 80 healthcare workers in the state have died from the virus since the pandemic began. 

Between March 16 and Aug. 9, 48 complaints regarding inadequate PPE in Georgia healthcare facilities were closed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety. Complaints about PPE have accounted for about 60 percent of Georgia's COVID-19 complaints to the agency between March and August, according to Kaiser Health News

Georgia officials have said the state's estimated PPE deficits were larger earlier on in the pandemic because the projections accounted for all COVID-19 positive cases and didn't take into account people who were asymptomatic. But several experts have said that the number of asymptomatic people wouldn't be relevant for PPE projections, since asymptomatic people can also spread the virus. 

State officials told Kaiser Health News that PPE supplies have "greatly improved" since the start of the pandemic. 

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