Illinois emergency management officials warn law enforcement agencies masks distributed by state could be fake

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A warning from Illinois health and emergency officials was sent out Thursday over the state's Rapid Electronic Notification System known as SIREN. The bulletin instructed first responders to beware of some of the protective face masks provided by the state.

The masks Illinois officials have instructed law enforcement not to use are some Chinese made KN95 masks labeled "Huabai" or "Sanqi." Others cited in the state warning are unmarked respirators, or appear to be emblazoned only in Chinese.

According to the alert obtained by the I-Team that was sent to law enforcement agencies, fire departments and municipalities across Illinois, the KN95 masks provided to them by state emergency officials "may not meet performance standards."

The bulletin states "Counterfeit KN95 masks are reportedly flooding the marketplace" and Illinois has distributed KN95 masks throughout the state."

"It might say N95 mask on there but you've got to know that that's a real N 95 mask. You've really got to make sure that what arrives is what you paid for, what you thought you were getting. And so we're doing our best, you know, things come in on shipments of a million," said Governor JB Pritzker during his daily briefing.

One suburban police chief told the I-Team he did not have to wait for the state warning. The chief said when the masks arrived he ordered the box-loads set aside and not used because they did not look legitimate.

As COVID-19 cases and deaths continue unchecked in Illinois, first responders protection has already been an issue. Everything from concerns about inadequate supplies of masks, gloves and other personal protection gear, to police in some counties not being provided the locations of known coronavirus victims. Now there are new concerns about the masks provided by state officials.

"We know that there are different levels of coverage from N95, to KN95, to surgical mask coverings, so there are different levels of covers that are needed depending on what you're doing," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Since the outbreak began, Illinois records reveal state taxpayers have spent at least $47 million on protective masks of all kinds. We now know some of those masks should not be used.

Statement from Governor Pritzker's office:

In light of recent recall of certain KN95 masks in Missouri, IDPH issued guidance to clarify how KN95 masks with emergency use authorization from the FDA should be used. Further guidance will be issued today clarifying that KN95 masks will be evaluated and outlining how they can be safely used in healthcare settings. IDPH's preference is that N95 masks be used for procedures like intubation, that pose a higher risk of exposure. IDPH and IEMA are lot checking the KN95 masks that are shipped to Illinois to verify they meet standards and offer guidance on the best uses for those that are not under emergency use authorization from the FDA.
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