Rhonda Silence

Former CDC representative Frank Ceo now imports respirator masks for medical workers

Frank Ceo, a retired health communications specialist, is putting his past experience with the Centers for Disease Control to good use—from his home on the Gunflint Trail.

Ceo worked at the CDC during the H1N1 influenza pandemic and went on to work in health education, before moving to Cook County and beginning an entirely different career as an importer of coffee filters from China.

When Ceo heard the news of the COVID-19 pandemic, he knew how serious this could be. He also knew that there could ultimately be a shortage of medical supplies.

That, Ceo tells WTIP, is where his China business connection comes in. The company that once made coffee filters changed its operations to produce KN95 respirator masks. As the pandemic slowed in China, the government decided to allow the companies making the masks to export them. Ceo was first in line to accept them from the company he had been working with.

For those who may question the efficacy of a respirator mask made in China, Ceo acknowledges that the masks he imports are KN95 respirators, the Chinese equivalent of the U.S.-produced N95 masks. The masks have been registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Working with his wife, Cindy Imsdahl, their company, Ningbo Green PPE, received the first shipment of KN95 masks from China on March 26. Ceo said it takes about a week to get from the factory in China to a U.S. warehouse. The couple is working on streamlining the transportation route.

That included a test run of shipping through Cook County. On April 15, after a circuitous journey, Ceo and Imsdahl, picked up the masks—which had traveled through the Pigeon River border crossing in Grand Portage to Esko—for the final delivery to Grand Marais.

The Gunflint Trail couple, through Ningbo Green PPE, donated 500 masks to North Shore Health. Hospital Administrator Kimber Wraalstad said the medical facility is also purchasing more from the company.
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence was on hand for the delivery of the masks and later spoke to Frank Ceo about the reasons he changed the focus of his import business and how.