The CDC warns of counterfeit N95/KN95 masks

I have a N95 with valves that I originally got for use while operating a laser cutter (esp. while cutting plexiglass).

The company that makes it has an accessory that replaces the vents with sealed off nubs, which I bought because the mask is easier for me to wear for long stretches of time then the disposable KN95s. Then my office decided the valves were bad, and didn’t want to make an exception for the sealed off ones because nobody can know just by looking at it that I’m not trying to kill everyone.

Which is fair, but sad.

Oh, that is good to know!


It is kind of surprising, but it’s primarily because cloth and surgical masks suck so much. :-/

All the time everyone in cloth and surgical masks were giving the stink eye to people with valved N95s they should have been giving it to each other.

That’s why I use really conspicuously colored tape over the valves instead of using white tape that would look nicer.

The elastomeric NIOSH respirators with source control now available all have a similar problem. They were all made from valved respirators and they still look like they have valves.

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I found Honeywell general-purpose N95s at a hardware store near me and picked up a couple of boxes. The store was very well stocked (the week before Christmas), but I probably ought to swing by and get a few more boxes if they aren’t all gone.

Grrrr: people are still not taking this seriously. Last night at the store, I was the only one in the whole place wearing an N95. The joke of it is, the N95s are easier to breathe through than the cloth masks I was using.


Yeah, around this section of GA you’d never know there was a pandemic raging in some areas. I’m now avoiding grocery stores in ‘red’ neighborhoods because there’s nary a mask to be seen. Meanwhile in the poorer and artsy neighborhoods folks are wearing masks everywhere.


yeah, the black KN95s i just bought last week apparently are. but i’m still gonna wear them. they gotta be better than the surgical masks i’ve been wearing. they certainly have a tighter seal around the face.


And/or with knobs on it and/or knurled shaft.

I read that as “America’s ability to make this happen,” but at this point I’m not sure it’s much of a difference.

The area where I live is kind of both, and at any rate votes overwhelmingly blue. That said, I have been seeing more and more dick-nosing around here lately, and even a few people not wearing masks at all. It makes me wonder just where they’d been for the last 22 months.

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I usually buy KF94s from Amazon, but the brand I like has lately been in short supply. And Amazon’s policy of not necessarily using the listed vendor for orders means examining the packing sleeve carefully for signs of counterfeiting.


Yeah, that “any random person could be main vendor for this official product page” policy is just nuts, especially when it comes to respirator grade masks and other safety related products subject to dangerous counterfeits. You can click on the manufacturer’s Amazon page and wind up buying from a 3d party seller - but with the false impression that the seller is official distributor for the manufacturer. 3M has a page, and when I clicked a product, instead of telling me “unavailable” it was being sold by some sketchy seller purporting to deliver in a month or more… :-/


Reusable elastomeric respirators are available, unlike the shortages of disposable N95 FFRs. And there are a number of them that now come from the factory with the valve removed or plugged so the air is filtered both ways - they are valveless respirators, and Delta specifically allows “valveless” respirators. These respirators seal better and work better than FFRs, but here’s what can happen when you fly with one: Delta made Diana Zicklin Berrent put a surgical mask over it, which she did, then detained her at the end of her flight after she tweeted about their inconsistent masking policies and enforcement.

Delta - the company that lobbied for the CDC to rescind it’s evidence based policy of 10 day isolation for people who test positive for covid because it was impacting Delta’s scheduling. :-/

I’ve found some N95’s that are actually pretty comfortable, and achieve a good seal with a foam grommett. They don’t fit my wife’s face well (she uses 3m N95’s at work), but they fit mine really well.

They’re “moldex” (no valve) N95’s from Grainger. Their supply is intermittent, so you need to be a bit of a stalker.


Exactly! And the same can be said of the importance of informed voters for a democracy as it is imagined.

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In Delta’s defense, when I worked my way back from Europe in mid-2020, a trip that took many legs because all my original flights had disappeared, the segments on Delta were the ones where I felt safest: distancing in the planes was enforced, the plane interiors had been scrubbed to a gleaming high standard, and the flight crew took mask enforcement seriously. As air travel started to become common again, they were also one of the last airlines to give up the on-flight distancing.

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That was then, though.

What I think Delta can be forgiven is asking her to put the surgical mask over the respirator. The valved version of the Elipse and the Source Control version are identical in outward appearance. And she fully complied and wore the surgical mask over her respirator the entire flight. But she tweeted about her negative impression of Delta mid flight via on-board wi-fi. And Delta security were there to escort her off the plane, for tweeting, not because of any failure to comply with mask protocols.

With the short self isolation times, all Delta employees should be wearing respirator grade FFRs, such as n95s rather than the leaky surgical masks they are wearing in the video. And they shouldn’t be harassing passengers for tweeting that fact.


I’ve been in the hospital a few times over the last couple of weeks, and each time they required me to remove my certified KF94 and replace it with one of their inferior blue surgical mask.

In the case of Delta, they had likely procured the minimal CDC-approved device for their staff. Now that the CDC recommendations are changing, I suspect that Delta will move to the better masks, but they might try to deplete their older stock first. They can’t really be blamed for CDC’s wishy-washy policies.

I agree that removing a passenger for tweeting is over the top, on the other hand I have sympathy for airlines having a fair measure of control over their passengers. I don’t see anything to be gained from tweeting a complaint like this during a flight. Flight attendants have had a pretty tough time of it over the last couple of years; being constantly scrutinized, then criticized by passengers for things over which they have no control, is unhelpful. Save it for the post-flight Yelp review, or at least for genuinely egregious behavior on the part of the flight attendant on those rare occasions when it happens.

I’ve seen lots of similar reports where people have been required to take off a certified FFR and exchange it for a “baggy blue”. Some people manage to get a compromise allowed and put the procedural mask over their FFR. But now that the trifold Auras N95 have become more available (often through Home Depot, which is where I got mine), and with the 3M and NIOSH info stamped on the front in big letters, I wonder if that would be sufficiently recognizable for the hospital to allow you to wear a respirator without being asked to wear inferior protection? The hospital staff should be familiar with the industrial version of the Auras since they use a near identical version that has added splash resistance and has read headbands instead of light blue.

I’ve considered getting a “fit the mask” silicone mask fitter for this kind of situation if they won’t let me wear a respirator under a procedural mask they require. They can’t reasonably prevent you from using a mask fitter.

My hospital’s staff were mainly still in the blue masks last Wednesday.

It is easier to maintain a requirement when the requirement is simple. Allowing outside masks means inspecting them individually. Hopefully, at some point their standard replacement mask will be something better.

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I think this gets back to the issue of counterfeits. If it weren’t for all the counterfeits, they could simply accept any mask that had N95 printed on it (as N95s are required to do). The danger from counterfeit’s is having a wider ranging affect on our healthcare than just affecting those that use them.


Maybe this will be useful. It was updated 4 Jan.


Weirdly, the wire cutter’s number one recommendation, the Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator, failed Armbrust’s PFE test.

Not by a huge margin, but that just shouldn’t happen to an N95 by a major manufacturer.

That and the Wirecutter links to Amazon to buy then, even though Amazon is known for having a huge counterfeit stock problem.