Some local EMS crews making due with ‘questionable’ masks

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Some emergency service crews here in Monroe County are weighing in on the quality of masks that were handed out to them.

Those masks, that are supposed to be KN95, were brought in by the state. CHS Mobile Care told News10NBC’s Stephanie Duprey they don’t think these masks are a total waste.

The state is responding to the uproar about the quality of these masks. It said it’s conducting an internal review of all the masks they have in storage. CHS Ambulance Chief Reg Allen said while it may not be the best, he feels the state is doing what it can.

"Is it ideal, should we have N95s and not KN95s sure, I wish we weren’t in a pandemic, I wish COVID didn’t happen," Allen said. "I prefer not to look a gift horse in the mouth, they’re doing what they can.”

The masks that many are questioning the quality of, went out to local schools and EMS crews. Allen said the masks could provide the type of protection a regular cloth mask does.

"I’m comfortable with what they handed out, it’s tough times, it’s trying to find products that are available is not easy,” Allen said.

Monroe County handed out the masks, but they came from the state. The county said they had thousands of units of the masks in question.

In a statement Tuesday, the county said, “We are aware of concerns about the quality of some of the KN95 masks procured by New York State and recently distributed by Monroe County. These concerns have been brought to the attention of state officials, and they are seeking replacement masks. As soon as Monroe County receives additional masks, we will work to replace the masks for those who were unable to use them. While it appears these masks may not provide KN95 level protection, residents are advised they may continue to use them if they do not have access to higher quality masks."

The masks in question were manufactured by Yixian Songlin Bioengineering Co., Ltd. and were provided in clear plastic packs containing 25 units each. These masks comprised 180,000 units of the 337,620 KN95’s provided to Monroe County by the state.”

The state also responded Tuesday, telling News10NBC, “The State has distributed tens of thousands of masks to counties to provide to teachers and schools as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Impacted counties have been contacted and asked to pull the masks in question and new masks will be shipped out for immediate replacement. In the meantime, the Department of Health and the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services are conducting an internal review of masks currently in storage.”

Allen said there are ways for ems teams to utilize the questionable masks.

"I see an opportunity for this, to be worn over let’s say an N95 so that I don’t get body fluids on, it,” Allen said.

News10NBC also reached out to our state lawmakers. A statement from New York Assemblywoman Sarah Clarks office says, “The Assemblywoman has heard from many constituents and local organizations that the masks provided recently were not usable or effective. She is currently trying to get answers and will continue to fight for the PPE needed in our community. We recently received our own quality masks from the Assembly to hand out in district. We are currently working on a plan to get them out to our child care providers along with rapid testing kits.”

The state says it’s looking for replacements. The county says, soon as it receives them, it will work to get them out. News10NBC did reach out to the company in China that made these masks, but we have not yet heard back.

The letters and numbers printed on respirator masks actually depend on where the mask is certified.

N, R, and P-95 masks all come from the U.S., KN-95 and KP-95s are certified in China, and it’s unlikely, but if you see a mask certified in Europe it will say FFP2.

Because of high demand and supply chain shortages, the majority of masks available at this point are china’s KN-95s.

The fit of the mask is just as important as the kind, so make sure to get one that fits your face well.