State recalls 48,000 KN95 masks
JEFFERSON CITY — The state is recalling 48,000 masks sent to first responders, some found not to have met standards after testing was conducted by the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services over the weekend.
The announcement comes at a time when those on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic have been facing shortages of personal protective equipment.
Missouri Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten announced that the State Emergency Management Agency sent out a recall notice to local law enforcement and fire service agencies Monday afternoon recalling KN95 masks that were sent out April 2 and Wednesday.
“We’ve asked our local response partners to immediately pull those masks out of circulation and to make sure they are not used, and SEMA will be collecting those masks to ensure they’re not used,” Karsten said.
Karsten said the state follows a process when it comes to PPE procurement that includes putting out specifications for vendors, checking references and asking for samples or photographs of the products.
In response to the recall, Karsten said the state is establishing a working group composed of “experts on PPE” from DPS, DHSS and SEMA to look into the issue more closely. Karsten said the state will also invite the Attorney General’s Office to assist the group in its review as well as the “procurement specialist” from the state Office of Administration.
KN95 masks perform virtually the same as N95 masks, but they are made in China and were left out of the FDA’s March 24 Emergency Use Authorization, which allowed the import of N95 masks not approved by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health. According to the FDA, KN95 masks were excluded from the authorization because of concerns over fraudulent products.
However, on April 3, the FDA issued a new authorization in response to persistent mask shortages that allowed for the import of KN95 masks from China, as long as certain criteria are met. The FDA also said, though, that it recommend importers work to ensure that their product is authentic.
Lewis County Sheriff David Parrish, who also serves as president of the Missouri Sheriff's Association, said the state sent 53 KN95 masks for all of Lewis County, which has a population of about 10,000 people and includes three law enforcement agencies and four fire districts.
Fifteen of those masks went to Parrish’s department, where he kept one for each of his six deputies before sending the rest to the jail, where extra precautions are being taken as people are booked.
Parrish said they got the recall email from SEMA on Monday and that none of his deputies have used the masks since they were received April 5.
“I appreciate the state authorities making sure the equipment they sent out is safe for first responders to use." Parrish said “I’m sure it had to be a tough call for them. We appreciate them trying to keep us said, and I know they’re working hard to try to get us some masks that will work.”
Parrish said that the state plans on mailing back the KN95 masks it received.