Care New England says it unknowingly purchased counterfeit N95 masks

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ One of Rhode Island’s top hospital groups is mitigating the accidental distribution of counterfeit N95 respirator masks to its employees.

Care New England notified all staff members Thursday that at least one lot of Makrite N95 respirator masks they have in stock is counterfeit.

“At this time, there is no way to know by examining the respirator whether the one you have is real or counterfeit,” Care New England told staff members. “Therefore, please discard any Makrite respirator that you are currently using, and any that you may have set aside for future use.”

The masks, according to Care New England, did not show any of the telltale signs of being counterfeit upon purchasing.

“Despite reassurance from our vendor, after experiencing a high than usual fit-testing fall-rate and hearing that others in the state had received counterfeit product, we submitted pictures of the mask, its packaging, and lot number director to Makrite,” the hospital group explained. “We were subsequently notified that the lot number submitted was not an authentic product.”

In a statement to 12 News, Care New England said the majority of its healthcare workers don’t use Makrite respirators and they have an adequate supply of alternative respirators on hand.

“We are actively reaching out to staff that need to convert to an alternate product,” the statement reads.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Health said the state did not supply Care New England with the counterfeit masks.

A spokesperson for the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Local 5098, which represents a large amount of staff members at Care New England, said union leaders will encourage them within the coming days to “redouble their efforts in ensuring that all frontline health workers receive the proper personal protective equipment.”

Makrite has posted dozens of scam notices on its website regarding counterfeit masks since March, including five from this month alone.

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