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Minnesota, 3M remove 500K fake N95 respirators from circulation

The masks were headed to hospitals in Minnesota that couldn't get their own PPE.
An authentic 3M N95 respirator mask. 

An authentic 3M N95 respirator mask. 

Thousands of N95 respirators valued at $2.1 million were not distributed to healthcare facilities in Minnesota after it was discovered they were counterfeit. 

According to a news release from the Minnesota Department of Administration, the state and Minnesota-based 3M prevented the distribution of the 500,000 fake masks. 

“Protecting the health and safety of frontline health care workers is our top priority,” said Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis. “Part of sourcing scarce personal protective equipment in an intensively competitive environment is ensuring authenticity and effectiveness before delivery to healthcare facilities. Our partnership with Minnesota’s leading businesses such as 3M has been instrumental in providing reliable products.”

The State Emergency Operations Center's Critical Care Supplies Work Group had ordered the 3M-branded N95 respirators from a vendor called Supply Link, Inc., to supply hospitals in Minnesota who couldn't procure their own personal protective equipment. 

Amid reports of counterfeit and fraud, 3M worked with state officials to verify the masks were authentic. They weren't. 

3M, in a cease and desist letter, requested Supply Link surrender the counterfeit masks and remove them from circulation. The vendor has cooperated. 

The State of Minnesota did not spend any money on the counterfeit masks as the state generally doesn't pay for PPE until the items have been received, the release says. 

“3M is proud to have worked with State of Minnesota to prevent the purchase and distribution of these counterfeit respirators," said Denise Rutherford, 3M Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs. "3M is making more N95s than ever before and we will continue to take action against those exploiting the demand for these critical products.” 

Since the start of the pandemic, 3M has worked with other states and agencies to remove more than 7 million counterfeit respirators from circulation.

Meanwhile, it has been working overtime to produce N95 masks for healthcare workers. 

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