JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri is sending back millions of facemasks to China. The state plans to sue to get all of its money back – up to $8.25 million.
Fox 2 spoke with more than 20 fire and police departments Friday, all who said their men and women will be protected. Those who received questionable masks from the Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) say they’re thankful state regulators caught the problem.
Missouri and Illinois sent alerts, showing picture examples of masks that don’t meet standards, according to recent testing by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. They are KN95 masks that came from three factories in China.
Missouri Department of Public Safety director Sandy Karsten explained in a briefing this week that, “the masks would not protect people they had been issued to and so they had been recalled on Monday.”
She said questionable masks went out in shipments April 2 and April 8. They may have problems with their materials and the way they fit. Some may be counterfeit.
“The masks were to be paid for from the state disaster funds and we’ve already had at least two vendors who were contracted with the state to provide additional masks, voluntarily cancel those contracts and refund the state’s money,” Karsten said.
She said a third vendor is refusing to refund an advance payment worth more than $8 million.
Here’s a breakdown of the purchases involving three vendors:
Vendor 1 sold 360,000 KN95 masks for $1.1 million. The vendor agreed to refund full amount.
Vendor 2 sold 5 million N95 masks for $16.5 million. The state paid half up front. The order has been cancelled and the state got its advance payment of $8.25 million back Wednesday, according to Karsten.
Vendor 3 sold 3.9 million KN95 masks for $16.5 million (with another advance payment of half). In this case the state received almost 101,000 of those masks and the vendor has declined to refund the $8.25 million advance payment.
Karsten declined to name the vendors. She cited possible litigation as a reason for limiting some information.
“We will do everything in our power to recoup the money that was required to obtain these masks and we will continue to do everything in our power to obtain PPE of quality,” she said.
Many departments told Fox 2 they can still protect their employees because of their own purchases or supply from their county emergency management teams. In St. Charles, the fire chief reportedly spotted the problem with the state’s shipment immediately when he opened the delivery. He returned them to SEMA and his department says their personnel are still equipped with proper protection.