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DESE: Some KN95 Masks Given To Schools Not Tested By MIT, As Baker Said

BOSTON (CBS) -- The state now says it has learned that some of the KN95 masks given to Massachusetts school districts were not tested at MIT, as Gov. Charlie Baker had previously said.

"The Commonwealth made roughly 6 million masks available to school districts if they choose to use them as part of the supply that they make available to their students and their staff. Those masks were tested by MIT and they were deemed to be about 85% effective," Baker said Monday.

But the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education said Wednesday that they've received an update from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, saying that some of the masks "had not been tested at MIT as previously thought." The department maintains that the masks remain effective.

The KN95 masks were manufactured by a garment company in China. Some superintendents are questioning their safety after the CDC found they are about 45% effective.

The KN95 masks distributed by the Dept. of Education (Courtesy Photo)

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said Baker's initial comments were "negligent and dismissive."

"The governor is putting public relations over public health," Najimy said in a statement.

The teachers union is calling on leaders in the state Legislature to investigate Baker's pandemic actions when it comes to schools, and to have a department other than DESE take over COVID testing and PPE distribution.

The complete statement from a DESE spokeswoman is below:

As you know, DESE distributed KN95 masks to districts last week. We received an update from MEMA today that some of the masks in the distribution, masks marked "non-medical," had not been tested at MIT as previously thought.

All the masks that were distributed last week are KN95s and remain effective, but we are sharing this update as I know there have been additional questions from districts on the masks.

KN95 masks, when worn properly per CDC and DPH guidance, are considered to be highly effective. The CDC has outlined considerations for effective mask use and important factors include having two or more layers, a snug fit against the sides of your face without gaps, and a nose wire to prevent air from exiting the top of the mask.

The use of the KN95 masks is voluntary, and staff should be aware that their choice of masks is ultimately a personal decision. Teachers and staff should wear the masks according to their comfort level.



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