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Utah County mask-maker fighting against Chinese competitors, and losing

SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Hickey says that he went into the business of making N-95 and K-N-95 masks to be a good American. But his company, Pura Vita Medical in Lindon, Utah, is getting stifled by Chinese competition.

Every bid he’s submitted to American companies that need these masks, including governments and hospitals, has been undercut by a Chinese competitor.

Every one.

“Our own government is working against us to become independent for our own PPE needs,” Hickey told KSL TV reporter Alex Cabrero.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the N-95 masks specifically for healthcare workers and first responders. On its website, the CDC lists an alternative to the N-95 mask, called the KN-95 mask, which is similar to the N-95 but which is generally only made in China.

The CDC warns that the effectiveness of KN-95 masks can be compromised if they are counterfeit, or fake.

Last week, the CDC issued a warning about counterfeit masks with false federal approval labels — raising concerns over the masks’ effectiveness in protecting against COVID-19.

“This is a serious product,” Hicken told KSL TV.  “This isn’t like buying rubber bands from China and some of them break.  This is a device that’s literally intended to prevent you from getting a potentially deadly disease.”

Hickey says this a real problem because of the importance of independence in personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing and the need for quality control for these life-saving masks.


How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States