Maine is one of the states impacted by a recall of potential knockoff N95 masks.
Last Friday, Maine officials announced that the state received more than 2 million potentially counterfeit respirators marked as 3M products after it was determined shipments of the face coverings matched lot numbers in a federal warning.
"Since November, the state has distributed approximately 161,000 N95 respirators now subject to recall to school nurses, healthcare facilities and certain state workers with the Department of Health and Human Services," the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services said in a press release.
Maine officials have since offered approved replacements to any group that received one of the affected masks.
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Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Thursday that the department "immediately identified every one of [the masks] that were distributed."
According to Lambrew, the state is now working with federal investigators, including some at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to determine how the suspected fake masks ended up with government agencies in states like Maine, Minnesota and Washington.
Lambrew and Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of Maine CDC, said that samples provided by the vendor who supplied the masks had passed tests to make sure they were safe N95 respirators, including one exercise where a person puts on full protective equipment and is sprayed with bitter liquid with the mask on to see if they could taste or sense any of it.
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"If they could, that was it, there was no other discussion with that vendor," said Shah, adding that his agency "did that in the situation of this vendor and all of the samples they sent us passed on our vetting process."
"The bottom line there is what we ultimately received were not what was sent to us as samples," he explained.
Lambrew said the state is now looking at ways to prevent a similar situation from happening in the state again, and the Maine Attorney General's Office is now looking at ways to reclaim money spent on the potentially fake masks.