Company that produced shelved state masks says they are safe for use

Company that produced shelved state masks says they are safe for use

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Mask wearing has been in the news in Shelby County a lot this week.

Monday masks procured by the state of Tennessee were shelved over safety concerns, and increased day-to-day COVID-19 case counts have the Shelby County Health Department warning they could end up requiring mask wearing.

"We fully expect that the distribution of these masks will resume shortly," said Stan Jewell, CEO of Renfro Corporation.

Renfro is the North Carolina sock manufacturer who produced millions of masks for the state of Tennessee. State officials suspended distribution of the masks this week over concerns about an antimicrobial called Silvadur used on the masks.

Silvadur is a registered pesticide with the EPA, but Jewell said the pesticide label covers a broad range of products. He told WMC Action News 5's Kendall Downing the Silvadur used on the masks is widely used in the textile industry on pillows and sheets.

Jewell said Renfro uses the antimicrobial on its socks, and maintains the substance is safe for use on the masks.

"I think it's unfortunate that the confidence may have been shaken by some consumers, consumers of these masks or any mask, that they're safe," he said, "So we want to reiterate that there's no reason to expect that there's any harmful effects of these masks."

The state of Tennessee said they're gathering information to determine next steps on the masks.

In Shelby County, more than 300,000 of the masks were handed out. Officials said Monday people should stop using them.

"I would say stop wearing them until further notice," said Alisa Haushalter, Director of the Shelby County Health Department.

The Memphis City Council tabled a vote this week on an ordinance that would require the wearing of facial coverings in public.

The county's health officer said Tuesday if case growth continues the health department could turn their recommendation of mask wearing county-wide into a requirement.

"We will have no choice but to mandate that a facial covering be required for everyone when you are out of your home," said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Officer.

Officials at the Shelby County Health Department have said all week they're working to see whether 100 or more cases of COVID-19 a day is the new normal, as businesses reopen and more social activity takes place.

Randolph said this week based on numbers they were seeing the county would not be able to move to phase three of the Back to Business plan next week, but a spokesperson for the health department said Friday that no final decision on that has been made.

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