Hospital unknowingly buys thousands of counterfeit N95 masks


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (NewsNation Now) — A medical center in Rhode Island reports it unknowingly purchased more than 10,000 counterfeit N95 masks. Now, state health officials say they’re working to determine how it happened.

Care New England is one of Rhode Island’s top hospital groups. It’s throwing away 11,000 N95 masks after learning at least one batch of them isn’t authentic, NewsNation affiliate WPRI-TV reported.

The masks were purchased from Makrite, a company that sources personal protective equipment globally.

“We had the shipping information, the invoice information, everything seemed to be authentic so we had no reason to believe they were not authentic,” Care New England’s Robin Neale said.

Courtesy: Makrite via WPRI-TV

Neale said employees noticed something was amiss while trying the masks on. She said they looked normal, but didn’t fit quite right.

“We expected they wouldn’t fit everybody, but it was a larger fail rate than we would’ve thought,” she said.

After some of the masks were tested and proved to be below the N95 standard, Care New England notified all of its staff members and directed them to discard all Makrite-brand masks.

Since it’s tough to tell whether a Makrite mask is counterfeit or not, Neale said they’re tossing all of the Makrite N95’s masks they purchased as a precaution.

“We are in the process of notifying each person individually,” Neale said, adding that only 5% of Care New England’s workforce uses the masks in question.

“It’s really disappointing that somebody would prey on the people that, I think, are heroes at this point,” she continued.

It’s not just happening there, however. Makrite has posted dozens of scam notices on its website regarding counterfeit masks since March, including five from this month alone.

Last month, U.S. Border and Customs Agents in Chicago pulled $3 million worth of masks after learning part of the order was counterfeit. The entire order, which including 500,000 masks, was held for further testing.

The Rhode Island Department of Health, which said they did not supply Care New England with the counterfeit masks, is still trying to figure out how this happened.

“They’re front line workers,” Neale said. “The people caring for COVID patients, and that somebody would sell fake respirators to a health care organization or to be used by a health care organization is really disappointing.”

NewsNation affiliate WPRI-TV reached out to Makrite regarding the counterfeit masks but has yet to hear back.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its own warning regarding counterfeit N95 masks.

Here’s what to look for when determining whether an N95 mask is authentic:

  • The mask has no markings at all on the filtering facepiece respirator.
  • There’s no approval (TC) number on filtering facepiece respirator or headband.
  • There are no National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) markings.
  • NIOSH is spelled incorrectly.
  • The presence of decorative fabric or other decorative add-ons (for example: sequins).
  • The mask claims to be approved for children to use (NIOSH does not approve any type of respiratory protection for children).
  • The filtering facepiece respirator has ear loops instead of headbands.

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