When the corona virus spread to the U.S. earlier this spring, authorities warned people not to buy N95 respirators so they would not contribute to a lack of masks for medical personnel. The N95 respirators are considered the most effective masks to filter out airborne droplets that can transmit the virus. Websites such as Amazon stopped selling N95 masks to the general public and took action against sellers trying to sell fake versions.
But a ProPublica The investigation revealed an operation in Texas in which masks marked “prohibited” for medical purposes were repackaged into unlabelled bags. A man who answered an ad for a TaskRabbit appearance told ProPublica what he had seen:
… five or six other “taskers”; who earned about $ 20 an hour tore Chinese masks out of plastic bags and stuffed them into new ones that were identical, except for one potentially fatal difference. The old packaging was labeled “MEDICAL USE PROHIBITED” in all caps. This means that they cannot be used by doctors and nurses who need the strongest protection against tiny particles that carry the novel corona virus. The new bags that were supposed to find their way to Texas hospitals simply omitted this warning.
According to ProPublicaThe people behind the operation – a Silicon Valley investor and his business partner – used TaskRabbit and payments through Venmo to re-label the masks with the intention of selling them to Texas emergency services. They had a stock of China-made KN95 masks that are similar to 3M’s N95 masks, but often fail regulatory inspection for use in the United States.
The 6-foot stack of boxes was identified as being from a Chinese manufacturer, Guangzhou Aiyinmei Co. Ltd., identified by the FDA as one of the companies that manufacture ineffective KN95. The masks filter only 39% of the particles, according to tests by the Centers for Control and Prevention of Diseases. They are so ineffective that Canada issued a recall. The FDA had hastily approved it and others for healthcare use at the beginning of the pandemic, but it changed its mind last month, despite the fact that millions of masks were in circulation in the United States.
Apparently there was some confusion as to whether KN95 masks were allowed in the U.S. or not because the FDA had changed their guidelines for their use. Ultimately, thanks in part ProPublica According to reporter J. David Swaine, the operation did not sell any of its repackaged masks to customers in the United States. However, the article shows the gaps in our medical supply chain and is an example of the persistent reporting on annoying issues ProPublicaTrademark. Check it out here.