On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) had access to documents revealing the state was facing a critical shortage of protective equipment in April — just as he moved to reopen businesses.
"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," reported Rachana Pradhan and Victoria Knight of Kaiser Health News. "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."
One day after receiving these documents, Kemp moved forward with his order reopening a number of high-risk businesses including hair salons, gyms, and movie theaters, telling reporters at a news conference, "We have relied on data, science and the advice of health care professionals to guide our approach and decision-making."
Georgia officials have disputed these figures, claiming that the estimates of PPE requirements in April were overly pessimistic because they assumed a higher hospitalization rate than in fact occurred.
Nonetheless, shortly after this decision, cases of COVID-19 began surging in Georgia, and since then, at least 80 health care workers in the state have died. President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force has specifically faulted Kemp's botched reopening effort — even though he did so at a time when the president was pressuring states to reopen.
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