‘Vast majority’ of surplus PPE left out in rainstorm not damaged, set to be donated

in Community

The “vast majority” of the $7 million worth of non-medical-grade personal protective equipment that was left outside during a rainstorm last fall at the San Mateo County Event Center are still usable and will be donated to dozens of nonprofit organizations and government agencies, according to County officials.

On Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors authorized County staff to begin distributing still-usable equipment to organizations who need it. The County is working with the nonprofit Wine Country Marines to distribute them to entities within San Mateo County along with other organizations who can use the materials.

Following news reports earlier this month, San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy announced an investigation into how roughly $7 million in surplus, non-medical-grade safety and cleaning supplies that were being stored at the San Mateo County Event Center ended up left outside and impacted by rain. The supplies, including 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 Event Center to an outdoor fenced-in area in mid-September to accommodate an event, but should have been returned indoors, Callagy said.

The good news is most of the supplies involved were individually wrapped in plastic inside boxes and were not damaged, County officials said.

“While we deeply regret the damage that occurred during last fall’s rainy season, we are grateful the vast majority of the supplies are still usable and can support purposes including wildfire clean up, disaster relief and other emergency response efforts,” said Callagy. “As we move forward, we encourage local community-based organizations that have a need for these supplies to reach out with their request as we are committed to deploying these supplies in ways that protect the well-being and safety of the community.”

San Mateo County had purchased the non-medical-grade equipment early in the pandemic when PPE was in short supply, hoping to use them as back-up in the event hospitals were overwhelmed. When that didn’t happen, the County tried to donate them to healthcare providers and government agencies such as schools, but few accepted due to the sizes, quantities and other considerations, the County said.

“Yes, we made a mistake. Humans make mistakes. But the important thing is that we owned up to it and thankfully are finding that these supplies do not need to go to waste,” County Supervisor Carole Groom said.

Callagy said that medical-grade personal protective equipment, including masks and other sensitive items, are stored in climate-controlled conditions at separate warehouse facilities.