Thousands of fake N-95 masks distributed to Washington hospitals

By the time WSHA was notified about the counterfeit masks, some had already been distributed.

SEATTLE, Wash. – Over the weekend, the Washington State Hospital Association discovered 300,000 3M, N-95 masks they ordered were counterfeit.

“Head straps are great, they’re secured very nicely, the inside looks like it’s supposed to, it has the metal bar. You can see that it has the 3M marking on it,” CEO and President Cassie Sauer showed off one of the fakes.

The problem is, they weren’t made by 3M.

“We keep saying it’s a very good fake. They have fooled everybody,” Sauer said.

Sauer, with WSHA said, they were alerted by US Homeland Security that the masks they purchased and distributed were unsafe for use. Luckily, WSHA didn’t distribute 60,000 of the masks.

READ MORE: Counterfeit masks reaching frontline workers in the US

“Some other hospitals have used them and they’re trying to determine how many and when and where they were used,” she explained.

These N-95 masks have been vital for healthcare workers because of their seal and fit.

Employees said 3M models have been popular because they make sizes for people with smaller faces, and fit better for women.

The alert prompted hospitals across the state to make sure these masks weren’t in use because the WSHA doesn’t know if they’re even effective against COVID-19.

“We spent the weekend collecting the counterfeit masks, switching them out and fit testing our staff,” June Altaras with Multicare Health System said.

Shane McGuire, with Columbia County Health System said fake N-95 masks has been an ongoing problem and it’s only getting worse.

“Easier frauds to detect have started going away and now you’re starting to see a lot better construction a lot harder to detect PPE,” he said.

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For people who have been working to fight COVID-19 and treat patients, this situation is discouraging.

“It is incredibly disheartening really really frustrating,” Sauer said.

“To have to re-introduce fear and anxiety to our clinicians who are out there taking care of our communities because someone chose to try and make money off of this situation is really highly frustrating. There’s a special place in the afterlife for people who would do this,” Altaras added.

The CDC has listed guidelines on how to spot a counterfeit respirator or NIOSH representation here.

Sauer said the WSHA will meet with 3M AND US Homeland Security to discuss further actions. At this time, they don’t know who created the masks.

KAPP KVEW has reached out to Kadlec Regional Hospital and Trios Health to see if they received any of the masks, and we haven’t yet heard back.