The 48,000 KN95 masks, given to first responders to aid with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic on April 2 and April 8, failed to meet “standards” when tested by the state’s health department, Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Sandy Karsten first announced Monday. The equipment came from three factories in China, Karsten said.
Galloway, a Democrat, sent a letter to DPS Wednesday seeking additional information about the masks as part of her office’s fiscal review of Missouri’s COVID-19 response.
“As our state faces this unprecedented challenge, the safety of our first responders should be our first priority,” Galloway said in a statement. “I am committed to making certain those on the frontlines of this health emergency are protected while ensuring Missourians’ tax dollars are safeguarded.”
It’s unclear exactly what standards the masks failed to meet or how many masks the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) has recouped since announcing the recall. Karsten first made the announcement during Gov. Mike Parson’s daily briefing, an event that does not allow reporters to ask questions in real-time. She responded to a couple of follow-up questions Tuesday.
Specifically, Galloway asked:
- What vendor or vendors provided the recalled masks, and which Missouri state agency was responsible for their procurement and purchase?
- What was the funding mechanism used for the purchase of the masks?
- When were the recalled masks purchased, and when were they received by SEMA?
- If there were distributions of KN95 masks by SEMA in addition to the April 2 and April 8 distributions, is there a potential that those masks, too, did not meet safety standards?
- What was the quality control process for the initial acceptance of the KN95 masks before they were distributed from April 2 – April 8?
- Was the process to evaluate safety masks modified, and how did the state discover the recalled masks did not meet standards?
- Because these masks did not meet standards, what recourse is SEMA pursuing with the vendor or vendors in order to make Missouri taxpayers whole for their cost?
Galloway requested a response to her questions by April 22.
A Kansas City-based firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Missouri Times the masks his unit received were expired and coming apart at the seams. While his department had other masks on hand and didn’t immediately need this shipment, he noted his rural counterparts might not be so lucky.
Karsten said Tuesday a shipment of 200,000 N95 masks manufactured by 3M in the U.S. is en route to Missouri, scheduled to arrive at a warehouse Tuesday night. The masks will be doled out among first responders and law enforcement officials, she said.
Neither DPS nor SEMA has responded to additional requests for comment regarding the masks from The Missouri Times.
In Missouri, nearly 5,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 147 have died.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.