REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- About $7 million worth of surplus personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, purchased by a Northern California county earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, was damaged in recent rainstorms after it was left outside for months, officials said.
San Mateo County officials acknowledged the loss Friday after a news report showed video of scores of sodden boxes outside the San Mateo Event Center in the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Mateo County, south of San Francisco, is among the wealthiest counties in the nation. Workers are inspecting the damaged boxes to see if the items inside -- many of them individually wrapped -- will still be usable. The undamaged goods will be donated to a nonprofit.
The county plans to hire an investigator to figure out why the items had been left outside since mid-September, when they were moved to a fenced-in area to make room for an event at the center.
The boxes should have been taken indoors once the event was over, according to Friday's statement from County Manager Mike Callagy.
"It clearly is a mistake by the county," Callagy said in an interview.
The equipment in the boxes included non-medical-grade isolation gowns, sterile gowns, face shields and goggles as well as cleaning supplies such as bleach and mop buckets and handles, the statement said.
The county's supply of gloves and masks -- including N95 and KN95 respirators -- is stored indoors.
Callagy's statement said the county purchased the items early in the pandemic, when personal protective equipment was becoming scarce nationwide, so local first responders and medical providers would have what they needed. The demand for the equipment has decreased as the pandemic has continued.