Metro scrutinizing its supply of N95 masks

Since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in March, public agencies around the world have scrambled to procure face masks to protect frontline employees and members of the public. It hasn’t been easy, as stiff competition for a limited supply of masks, particularly N95 masks that have rightly been prioritized for health agency use, have made their availability for other industry sectors challenging to say the least. Making matters worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s top health protection agency, has issued new warnings about questionable masks that have already entered the market. See the CDC’s October 22 warning.

Metro is by no means immune from these circumstances as it strives to protect L.A County’s public transportation system. The agency has received hundreds of thousands of masks from a variety of sources since the pandemic began. These masks include donations from other government entities as well as direct agency purchases. 

We became aware that some of the N95 masks in our own inventory may be questionable. We have taken aggressive measures to eradicate them from our supplies. The agency has pulled its entire inventory of questionable N95 masks and they are no longer being issued to employees. Metro has a ready supply of certified N95 masks in stock and will be prioritizing their distribution to maintenance mechanics whose jobs require these specific types of masks. 

For all other Metro employees, the agency has a substantial supply of KN95, surgical and cloth masks available in its inventory.

With the questionable N95 masks now sequestered, what we’re going to do next is fully investigate the origin of these masks. We will also perform an efficacy test on the questionable masks we have to determine if they, in fact, provide protections from the Coronavirus and determine what, if any, respiratory protection benefits they provide. Lastly, Metro has handed the matter over to the Office of Inspector General for investigation.

“I want to assure our employees and public that Metro takes the health and safety of our employees extremely seriously. It’s our No. 1 priority,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “This issue is a concern to all of us and it has our full attention. We will not rest until we are certain all of the Personal Protective Equipment that we provide to our workers is properly certified by the CDC as our society continues to grapple with this devastating COVID-19 pandemic.”

Metro will report back on its N95 mask investigation as soon as additional details are known. 

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