SAN MATEO – Millions of dollars worth of surplus personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies purchased by San Mateo County in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were damaged by recent storms after being left outside, the county’s top official said.
The items were moved out of the San Mateo Event Center in mid-September to make room for an event, County Manager Mike Callagy said in aFriday afternoon.
“The county is solely responsible for our materials at the Event Center,” Callagy said. “We deeply regret that this occurred and are hiring an external investigator to identify all facts related to the damage and make recommendations to avoid future incidents.”
The statement followed an ABC7 Newsabout the situation at the Event Center.
Callagy said the county purchased the items early in the pandemic when no one knew how long global supply shortages would last and jurisdictions nationwide were jockeying to purchase safety equipment to keep first responders and communities safe.
The estimated value of the items is $7 million. The items include non-medical-grade isolation gowns, face shields, bleach and mop buckets.
“While the storms damaged some outside packaging, most of the supplies are individually wrapped,” Callagy said. “The county is actively inspecting and cleaning the materials with plans to donate undamaged goods to a nonprofit.”
For months before the items were moved outdoors, the county worked with the California Office of Emergency Services to offer the items free of charge to health care providers and other agencies and states, but few accepted the offer, Callagy said.
Callagy said the items should have been moved back inside the Event Center after the event was over. Storage space, he added, was not available at other county facilities.
The county maintains separate warehouse facilities to store high-grade personal protective equipment, including masks, in a climate-controlled environment and regularly supplies health care partners during shortages and emergencies, Callagy said.
“We want to assure our community that this incident did not impact the county’s ability to provide safety equipment to first responders and others responding to COVID-19,” he said.