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caption: A KN95 mask.
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Washington state rejects 6.4 million masks, citing poor quality

Washington state has run into another problem in getting protective gear to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

The state canceled orders for more than 6.4 million KN95 masks from mid to late April, according to the Department of Enterprise Services, which is working to acquire such safety supplies.

KN95 masks are the Chinese version of the N95 mask, and are supposed to be an equivalent.

But the masks the state ordered didn’t pass a quality inspection, spokesperson Linda Kent said, because they didn’t correctly guard the face. An improper seal can allow air to leak around the edges of the mask.

“Doing this initial check, it stops us from distributing things hopefully that might not be as usable as we’d want them to be,” Kent said.

An order for surgical masks also fell through, Kent said. Over 1.5 million surgical masks got hung up in customs in Canada, and the seller canceled the order.

Manufacturers have also canceled orders for gowns and gloves, because of problems obtaining supplies to produce the goods, she said.

As of April 27, Washington had ordered over 284 million personal protective items and medical supplies. Just 5% of orders had been received.