Millions of counterfeit N95 masks distributed to health care workers

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About 2 million counterfeit N95 masks have been distributed unknowingly to health care workers across the country.

N95 masks are important for front-line workers because they filter 95% of the miniscule particles that can carry the coronavirus.

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The fake 3M masks “were sold in at least five states to hospitals, medical facilities and government agencies. Experts say the foreign-made knockoffs are becoming increasingly difficult to spot and could put health care workers at grave risk,” CBS News reported.

These masks are giving first responders “a false sense of security,” Steve Francis told CBS, adding, “We’ve seen a lot of fraud and other illegal activity.”

Francis is the assistant director for global trade investigations with the Homeland Security Department’s principal investigative arm.

According to NBC News: “As many as 1.9 million counterfeit 3M masks made their way to about 40 hospitals in Washington state, according to the state hospital association, spurring officials to alert staff members and pull the masks off the shelf. The elite Cleveland Clinic recently acknowledged that, since November, it had inadvertently distributed 3M counterfeits to hospital staffers. A Minnesota hospital made a similar admission.”

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Nurses at Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune became suspicious in November, NBC reported, that the misshapen and odd-smelling “3M” masks they were given are knockoffs.

They then matched the masks’ lot numbers to those the company listed online as possible fakes.

“People have been terrified for the last 2½ months,”Daniel Hayes, a nurse and union vice president at the hospital, told NBC. “They felt like they were taking their lives in their hands, and they don’t have anything else to wear.”

Over the past several months, 3M has seized substantial quantities of counterfeit model 1860, 1860S, and 1870+ surgical respirators “which had been sold or offered to government agencies in at least six different states,” 3M wrote in a letter it released last month.

Kevin Rhodes, 3M’s vice president and deputy general counsel, said medical facilities and health care workers should check the company’s website for tips on how to spot fakes.

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