JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
State officials are asking first responders send back thousands of masks out of safety concerns.
Missouri Department of Public Safety director Sandy Karsten said on Monday that the state sent out 48,000 KN95 masks that "did not meet state standards." The State Emergency Management Agency sent the masks out in shipments on April 2 and April 8, according to a letter obtained by ABC 17 News.
The letter does not specify what standards the masks did not meet. KN95 masks are manufactured in China, and only recently allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use here.
Karsten said local agencies should immediately take the masks out of circulation.
Some of those masks made it to mid-Missouri first responders. Brad Fraizer, assistant chief of the Columbia Fire Department, said they took 45 of the masks out of rotation. Fraizer said they department would keep them away until SEMA could pick them up.
The Columbia Police Department will return 750 of the masks, according to city spokesman Steve Sapp. Sapp said the department had already used nine of the masks.
State officials also said during their daily COVID-19 briefing Monday that a hospital to treat COVID-19 patients set up in a hotel in north St. Louis County will be ready to open as early as Tuesday.
Gov. Mike Parson said in his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday that the project has been completed.
You can watch a replay of the news conference in the media player.
Karsten said the hospital in a converted Quality Inn in Florissant can accept more than 100 COVID-19 patients with mild to no symptoms.
Karsten called the project -- undertaken by a team of federal and state agencies assembled last month -- is a first of its kind in Missouri. She said its quick creation was the result of an "unprecedented rapid response" to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A contractor, the Tarleton Corporation, also worked on the project.
The multi-agency group, which includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Missouri National Guard and State Emergency Management Agency, has scouted sites across the state, including the Hearnes Center and Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association, said at the briefing that the state is "moving heaven and earth" to get personal protective equipment such as masks and bodysuits in the hands of first responders and health care workers.
Kuhn said hospitals have also taken a major financial hit, in particular because of the lack of money-making elective procedures. Statewide hospital revenue is down about $1 billion per month, he said.
Kuhn said federal stimulus funding for hospitals will not make up for the shortfall.
As of Monday afternoon, at least 4,388 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19. The state health department said 114 have died related to novel coronavirus.