As the coronavirus crisis deepened in April, Georgia officials circulated documents showing that to get through the next month, the state would need millions more masks, gowns and other supplies than it had on hand.

The projections, obtained by KHN and other organizations in response to public records requests, provide one of the clearest pictures of the severe PPE deficits states confronted while thousands fell ill from rising COVID-19 cases, putting health workers at risk.

Georgia on April 19 had 932,620 N95 respirator masks — one of the best protections for health workers against infection — and expected to burn through nearly 7 million within a month. It urgently needed to buy 1.4 million more, according to documents obtained by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and shared with KHN. For gowns, officials expected to go through 16.1 million in 30 days, a staggering amount compared with the 21,810 the state had at the time.

“Making progress with PPE needs. Biggest challenge now is gowns and we are working it,” Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson wrote on April 19 to two of Gov. Brian Kemp’s senior-most aides.

Even so, one day later, the first-term Republican governor announced he would begin to reopen the state’s economy, including gyms, restaurants, hair salons, theaters and a host of other businesses.

“We have relied on data, science and the advice of health care professionals to guide our approach and decision-making,” he said at a news conference, “putting the health and well-being of our citizens first and doing our best to protect lives and livelihoods.”

“Our state agencies and the governor felt confident in the state’s ability to meet daily PPE requests from our local emergency preparedness partners and medical facilities when Georgia began implementing its measured reopening plan,” Cody Hall, the governor’s spokesperson, said in response to questions. “We have continued to meet those needs since April.” He noted the state is now building a PPE stockpile.

The article was published at As Georgia Reopened, Officials Knew of Severe Shortage of PPE for Health Workers.

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