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Missouri recalls 48K masks from China given to first responders in April

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri has recalled nearly 50,000 masks given to first responders earlier this month, Director of Public Safety (DPS) Sandy Karsten announced Monday. 

Karsten said the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) recalled 48,000 KN95 masks given to first responders on April 2 and April 8 because testing found “some of these masks did not meet standards.” While she did not elaborate on what testing requirements the masks failed, Karsten later said the equipment came from three factories in China. 

The notice went out to “local law enforcement and fire service partners across the state” on Monday afternoon, Karsten said. 

It’s unclear what standards the masks failed to meet or how many masks SEMA has collected at this time. Karsten first made the announcement during Gov. Mike Parson’s Monday coronavirus briefing, a daily event that does not allow reporters to ask questions in real-time. She responded to a couple of follow-up questions Tuesday. 

A Kansas City-based firefighter, who wished to remain anonymous, said the masks his unit received were expired and coming apart at the seams. His unit had set aside the masks to use on patients in the event they would run out of the surgical masks they already have on hand.

Director Karsten said testing found “some of these masks did not meet standards.” While she did not elaborate on what testing requirements the masks failed, a Kansas City firefighter said the Chinese-made masks were coming apart at the seams and expired. (PROVIDED TO THE MISSOURI TIMES)

“Luckily Kansas City was pretty proactive and had a decent supply and had not used them,” the firefighter said, noting rural departments might not be so lucky.

“The recalled masks may bear the names ‘Huabai,’ ‘SANQUI,’ or be unmarked, with Chinese characters on the cellophane packaging, or other names,” SEMA said in its recall letter, obtained by The Missouri Times.

Karsten said the state already has measures in place for the personal protective equipment procurement (PPE), including checking references and requesting samples or photographs of the product. 

On Tuesday, Karsten announced 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 later Tuesday. The masks will be doled out among first responders and law enforcement officials, she said.

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“PPE is one of the most difficult issues we’re facing now, not just in Missouri but all states,” Karsten said. “The N95 respirator masks are the single item of PPE that is most in demand. … There is too little product and too much demand. The supply chains have broken down, there have been quality issues, and there have been cases of fraud and counterfeit products in other states.”

Since the recall, the state will put together a working group made up of members of DPS, SEMA, the Department of Health and Senior Services, the Office of Administration, and the Attorney General’s Office, Karsten said. 

She speculated more steps could be added to the state’s procurement review process following the working group’s analysis. 

At least 4,388 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 114 have died, Missouri’s health department said Tuesday afternoon. 

This story has been updated. It was originally published on April 13. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.