As the coronavirus unfold throughout the US this spring, authorities warned individuals to not buy N95 respirator masks, lest they contribute to a scarcity of the masks for medical personnel. The N95 respirators are thought-about the simplest masks to filter out droplets within the air that will transmit the virus. Sites like Amazon suspended gross sales of N95 masks to most of the people and cracked down on sellers who tried to promote counterfeit variations.
But a ProPublica investigation uncovered an operation in Texas that was repackaging masks marked as “prohibited” for medical use into unlabeled baggage. A person who answered an advert for a TaskRabbit gig advised ProPublica what he witnessed:
…5 – 6 different “Taskers” incomes about $20 an hour have been ripping Chinese masks out of plastic baggage and stuffing them into new ones that have been an identical however for one doubtlessly lethal distinction. The outdated packages have been labeled in all caps “MEDICAL USE PROHIBITED,” which means not for use by docs and nurses who want the strongest safety from tiny particles carrying the novel coronavirus. The new baggage, supposed to make their technique to Texas hospitals, merely omitted that warning.
According to ProPublica, the individuals behind the operation— a Silicon Valley investor and his enterprise accomplice— used TaskRabbit and funds over Venmo to relabel the masks with the intent of promoting them to emergency staff in Texas. They had a stockpile of KN95 masks made in China, that are just like the N95s made by 3M, however which frequently fail to cross regulatory inspection to be used within the US.
The 6-foot stack of containers have been labeled as coming from a Chinese producer, Guangzhou Aiyinmei Co. Ltd., which had been recognized by the FDA as one of many corporations producing ineffective KN95s. The masks filter as little as 39% of particles, based on testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re so ineffective that Canada issued a recall. The FDA had hastily approved them and others for well being care use at the start of the pandemic, but it surely modified its thoughts final month, whilst thousands and thousands of the masks circulated within the US.
There was apparently some confusion about whether or not KN95 masks have been allowed within the US or not, because the FDA had modified its steering on their use. Ultimately, thanks partially to ProPublica reporter J. David Swaine’s probing, the operation didn’t promote any of its repackaged masks to prospects within the US. But the article reveals the gaping holes in our medical provide chain and is an instance of the type of dogged reporting on infuriating subjects that’s ProPublica’s trademark. Go check it out here.