Dentists return 120,000 inferior masks; struggle to find affordable protection

FOX Files
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS – Many St. Louis dentists gave up their protective equipment when the pandemic started. They donated it to doctors, nurses, and nursing home staff who needed it urgently.

The same dentists who gave up their critical PPE supply are now faced with prices five times higher.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recently identified dentistry as high risk for possible spread of COVID-19. It’s not a surprise to dentists who say they’ve always been vulnerable to the spread of disease, partly because of what’s called “aerosolization” or spray that can hang in the air from using dental instruments like this.

When the pandemic began, dentists closed down and donated their supplies to the front lines. Now dentists are struggling to rebuild their own supplies.

“Right now, the prices are four to five times what we paid—pre-virus—for any of our equipment,” said Dr. Danielle Riordon, president-elect of the Greater St. Louis Dental Society.

Riordon was excited that her organization found a potential supply for her members – 120,000 KN95 masks.

“Unfortunately, when the order showed up on Friday, it was not what we had expected. It was not medical grade at all, and we have extremely high standards in dentistry, which is why the PPE was an easy solution initially to donate it because we use a lot of it.”

Meg Stagina, the executive director for the dental society, said they became concerned when the masks arrived in boxes labeled “non-medical.”

“There was a brand name we weren’t anticipating,” she said. “Two of our officers came up to the office and examined them and did fit tests. They did not properly seal. They tried them on a couple different faces.”

They’re getting a full refund on the $350,000 bill but dentists have few leads on quality supplies.

“We gave it when we needed to and now, unfortunately, we have this concern. That’s what I mean about it being absolutely heartbreaking,” Riordan said. “It was the right thing for our community and now unfortunately not being able to help (our member dentists) in return, it’s pretty devastating for us as a society because we know it was a big sacrifice.”

Dentists are still practicing safely – finding other ways to get proper protection. They have their own patients they want to keep out of hospitals.

“We know that dental disease is the number one disease among children and it also can lead to things like heart disease, respiratory problems, issues with diabetes; so left untreated, it could become a bigger issue,” Riordan said.

The Greater St. Louis Dental Society says the latest hope is that it can work with the American Dental Association on getting on a priority list with FEMA, but it sees the struggle to buy affordable protection will continue getting harder.

FOX 2 Newsletters

Sign up for a newsletter from FOX 2 to get updates about news and weather. We offer daily headlines, breaking news, severe weather, and forecast emails.

About the FOX Files

The Fox Files are groundbreaking investigations you won’t see anywhere else. The series is well known for breaking the Pam Hupp story nationally. The reports that led to the exoneration of Russ Faria. But, it is far from the only time in which our investigations led to overturned convictions and freedom for the wrongfully accused. The Fox Files investigations do not fit into just one category, other than the fact our reports shine a light on issues and corruption in ways you won’t see anywhere else.

You won’t know what to expect as our reports often take twists that surprise even Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes.

“You never know where the truth will lead and you have to keep searching for it, even when you think you might be done,” Hayes said.

From getting arrested for trying to cover a public meeting, to getting law enforcement involved in his report about a daycare fight club, the Fox Files has been at the forefront of breaking news investigations in the St. Louis area.

It doesn’t stop just in St. Louis. The Pam Hupp/Russ Faria story took him to Lincoln County. Fox 2 was the first to report, nationally, on the synthetic drug epidemic when it began in St. Charles County, MO. In St. Louis County, our Fox Files reporting led to the dismantling of some police departments, including the departments of Uplands Park and Jennings. And in the City of St. Louis, our investigations led to swift government actions, such as our report that led to the Governor’s ordered shut down of a daycare.

Our reporting in St. Louis also led to former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens’ exclusive Fox Files interviews involving his court fight to oust the chief prosecutor while attempting to prove that political corruption led to an illegal overturning of a state election.

“It’s not always bad news,” Hayes said about a recent victory for a restaurant in his coverage of a St. Clair County Illinois issue. A Fox Files report, exposing a health department’s mistake over the COVID-19 pandemic, led to an overturning of a decision, allowing the business to open for limited inside dining.

Another investigation took us to Madison County, where prosecutors praised Fox 2’s coverage while shutting down an illegal synthetic drug business – and to Monroe County, where we uncovered key evidence in the Chris Coleman murder trial.

Even the national media, continues reaching out to local affiliate Fox 2 KTVI and the Fox Files, for its work on cases that are important to St. Louis. When you see a network television’s coverage of St. Louis, you’ll often see that they gathered information that was first uncovered right here.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.

More local COVID-19 maps and stats


Latest News

More News