san mateo county event center

$7M in PPE purchased by San Mateo County left out in rain

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San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said there will be an investigation into how an estimated $7 million worth of surplus safety equipment and cleaning supplies purchased in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ended up left outdoors to be drenched by storms earlier this season, causing damages. The story was first reported by ABC7 on Thursday. Callagy responded to the report today.

The supplies, including non-medical-grade isolation gowns, face shields, goggles, sterile gowns and miscellaneous cleaning supplies like bleach, mop buckets and handles, had reportedly been moved out from a building at the San Mateo Event Center to an outside fenced-in area in mid-September to accommodate an event, Callagy said. The surplus materials “should have been returned inside once the event was over,” according to Callagy, who added that storage space was not available at other County facilities.

The storms damaged some outside packaging but “most of the supplies are individually wrapped,” and so the County is inspecting and cleaning the materials with plans to donate undamaged goods to a nonprofit, the County Manager said. He added that high-grade personal protective equipment, including masks and other sensitive items, are stored in climate-controlled conditions at separate warehouse facilities.

“The County is solely responsible for our materials at the Event Center,” Callagy said in a statement. “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.”

Callagy said the supplies that were subjected to the storms were purchased early in the pandemic amid supply shortages. Before being moved outdoors, they’d been offered free of charge to healthcare providers and other agencies such as schools, along with other states. Callagy says few accepted the offer because “sizes, quantities and other considerations made them less appropriate.”

“We want to assure our community that this incident did not impact the County‚Äôs ability to provide safety equipment to first responders and others responding to COVID-19,” he said.