Hospitals, medical facilities, and government agencies in five states may have been using counterfeit N95 masks that appeared to be from top U.S. mask manufacturer 3M.
The Department of Homeland Security's investigative wing said Wednesday that health care workers may have been "lulled into a false sense of security" as they were provided with what seemed to be the most secure type of mask but turned out to be foreign-made counterfeits, The Associated Press reports. Investigators wouldn't stay which states or hospitals were involved, but the investigation comes just days after 3M told the Washington State Hospital Association that the state's hospitals may have ended up with counterfeits.
The WSHA told hospitals on Friday they may have received counterfeit masks and asked them to stop using the potentially counterfeit supply, The Seattle Times reports. Many hospitals sent masks to 3M for testing, and found an estimated 2 million sent to 40 hospitals were counterfeit, likely stemming from a December shipment paid for by the WSHA. The hospitals spent the weekend sorting through their mask supplies to root out counterfeits, but some had already been used. WSHA president Cassie Sauer did say there appeared to be no increase in COVID-19 cases at hospitals that used the counterfeits.
Mask fraud has been rampant throughout the U.S. as companies struggle to meet demand. But 3M warned these other manufacturers are likely just trying to produce cheap masks, and aren't necessarily "tested to see if they make the N95 standards." 3M provides tips for spotting fake masks, though Sauer warned that in Washington's case, the knockoffs "look and feel and fit and smell just like a 3M mask."