Hundreds of unopened masks found in dumpster at AU Health

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The number of COVID cases in Richmond County are at a five-month high.

The feds are predicting another wave this fall, which would make our third fall into the pandemic.

In the meantime, unused Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is filling up dumpsters across the country, including here in Augusta.

We went dumpster diving to find out that one man’s trash is not always another man’s treasure.

Remember when a box of N95 costs as much as a grocery bill, and that’s if you could even find any?

It’s been over two years now since the pandemic hit. It’s also the reason why many of these masks are ending up in dumpsters.

A news tip can lead to unusual places. This is the first dumpster diving in the wee hours of the morning before trash pickup.

There were so many boxes. Pallets of sealed boxes fill the dumpster outside of the Augusta University Medical Facility. We strike pandemic gold.

In the boxes, we found 3M masks 8511 and boxes containing thousands of N95 masks.

The expiration is March of 2025 so still a couple of years away.

Not opened until now.

They don’t look damaged or anything. We don’t understand why they threw them away.

Leo Friedman, CEO of iPromo, is no stranger to the business of PPE or to hearing stories like ours- brand new PPE thrown out like used covid tests.

“We are hearing of stuff being stored in warehouses being discarded by the billions,” said Friedman.

Remember April of 2020 when the world first shut down? PPE was as difficult to find as gas under four dollars a gallon is today.

Now two years later, a lot of this stuff is expiring in a big way. With PPE does expired really matter? Does it mean you are less safe from viruses?

If it’s not as effective, then you are less safe from viruses, but that’s not the case with the boxes addressed to Augusta University Medical Center.

If not stored properly, things stuck together both in cold and in heat. Neither storage nor expiration were the reason AU trashed the masks.

A spokesperson for the hospital emailed us: “Vented masks do not provide optimal protection from transmission of the virus. The masks in this photo, while not expired or damaged, are vented. Out of an abundance of caution and following the CDC’s guidance, AU Health chose not to use vented masks.”

Federal guidance is constantly changing. You are at risk for exposure with an expired mask, but the feds have given the okay to use out-of-date at-home COVID tests.

Just because you’re at home COVID tests say they are expired on the box; check the manufacturer’s website and 10 out of 10 times the expiration date will have been extended for six months.

Only then is one man’s trash another man’s treasure.

Now is the time to check the expiration boxes on your masks and tests. The recommendation is to have a 50-count box of masks and four at-home tests per family member on hand.

AU debated sending the mask to a third-world country but decided against it because the vented masks are not as effective in protecting against viruses.

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