• The masks were purchased by hospitals and WSHA
  • The hospitals sent masks to 3M for testing and the company confirmed they were fake
  • Dozens of hospitals across the state were impacted

At a time when the U.S. is struggling to contain COVID-19 and concerns are mounting over the new strain that first emerged in the U.K., Washington state hospitals have found fake N95 masks in their supply.

Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) said in a statement that it received a notice from 3M, the company that manufactures the masks, about counterfeit N95 masks making their way into the national supply of personal protective equipment.

The association alerted the state’s hospitals and asked them to pull the masks from their supplies. The masks were purchased by hospitals and by WSHA to distribute to its members, the association said.

3M flagged several lot numbers as potentially used by counterfeiters, and these are among the stock purchased by hospitals in Washington state. The association and several members are awaiting analysis of the remaining lots, the statement added.

WSHA President and CEO Cassie Sauer said that the masks had the "appropriate paperwork" and passed physical inspection and testing. Sauer estimatied that hospitals in Washington spent around $5 million to $8 million on counterfeit masks, the Associated Press reported.

The hospitals also sent some masks to 3M for testing, and the company confirmed they were fake. WSHA is working with the Department of Homeland Security and 3M to determine the next steps, CNN reported.

3M said in a statement sent to CNN that it has been working with "law enforcement and customs agencies to prevent the sale and manufacture" of fake masks. The company also said that the masks were "purchased from distributors with no relationship to 3M.”

Apart from counterfeit masks, vaccine scams and fake COVID-19 tests have also been reported in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that "some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus." These fraudulent products, it said, haven't been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness.

The FDA also said that it has seen unauthorized fraudulent test kits for COVID-19 being sold online.

3M produced two billion N95 masks in 2020 as the world confronted the coronavirus pandemic. GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JUSTIN SULLIVAN