Background: During the current COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have been severely disrupted and many products, particularly surgical N95 filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs; “masks”) are in short supply. As a consequence, an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA has allowed importation of N95-type masks manufactured to international standards; these include KN95 masks from China and FFP2 masks from the European Union. Methods: We conducted a survey of mask in the inventory of major academic medical centers in Boston, MA to determine provenance and manufacturer. We then assembled a simple apparatus for performing a necessary (but not sufficient) test of filtration performance and tested masks from the inventory; an accompanying website shows how to build and use the testing apparatus. Results: Our survey showed that, seven months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 different makes and models of N95-type masks are in the inventory of local hospitals as opposed to 2-5 models under normal circumstances. A substantial number of unfamiliar masks are from unknown manufacturers. Many did not perform to accepted standards and are likely to be counterfeit. Due to the absence of publicly available information on mask suppliers in the FDA EUA and confusing or inconsistent labeling of KN95 masks, it is difficult to distinguish legitimate and counterfeit products. Conclusions: Many of the FFR masks available for procurement during the COVID-19 pandemic do not provide levels of fit and filtration similar to those of N95 masks and are not acceptable for use in healthcare settings. Based on these results, and in consultation with occupational health officers, we make six recommendations for end users to assist in acquiring legitimate products. In particular, institutions should always assess masks from non-traditional supply chains by checking their markings and manufacturer information against data provided by NIOSH and the latest FDA EUA Appendix A. In the absence of verifiable information on the legitimacy of mask source, institutions should consider measuring mask fit and filtration directly. We also make suggestions for U.S and Chinese regulatory agencies with regard to labeling and public disclosure aimed at increase pandemic resilience.
Collection : COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv