San Mateo Co. officials vow to investigate after PPE found in rain, say it will never happen again

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022
San Mateo Co. officials vow PPE debacle will never happen again
The San Mateo Board of Supervisors questioned the county manager about all that PPE purchased with your tax dollars and left out in the rain.

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors took formal steps today to put the PPE controversy behind them, but not before the county manager faced tough questions about what the ABC7 I-Team uncovered - millions of dollars of PPE left outside, both at the Event Center and Seton Medical Center.

County Manager Mike Callagy faced the San Mateo Board of Supervisors Tuesday about all that personal protective equipment purchased with your tax dollars and left out in the rain.

RELATED: More than $10M worth of masks, protective gear left in the rain outside Bay Area event center

Supervisor David Canepa asked, "When did you find out about this?"

County Manager Mike Callagy: "That we had this vast amount of-"

Canepa: "Yeah, when were you first notified?"

Callagy: "When ABC contacted me."

Less than two weeks ago, the I-Team's Dan Noyes found thousands of boxes of PPE soaking in the rain at the San Mateo Event Center, many collapsing into the puddles -- gowns, face shields, goggles and more. I reported the event center moved the supplies outside last September, to make space for a weekend software conference. But the boxes remained outside through several torrential downpours.

VIDEO: Why are boxes of plastic face shields being shredded in San Benito County? I-Team seeks answers

In San Benito County thousands of boxes of PPE are not only sitting outside in unwieldly stacks, but heading to the recycling center to be shredded.

Callagy told the board, "We are now looking into how this occurred, and I can assure you that I'll be putting policies and procedures in place to make sure this never happens again."

Clearly, there is still confusion about what we discovered, even among the board members.

"I think the most important thing to remember is this was not hospital quality, this is not something that patients in our hospitals will go without because it wasn't of that grade," said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom.

But we did find boxes of disposable operating room gowns and many more isolation gowns that medical personnel use when seeing patients - pallets upon pallets of them. All this paid with your tax dollars. Also, the board discussed another of our reports - more than half a million hospital gowns kept in the parking lot at Seton Medical Center in Daly City.

VIDEO: Marines tagged to inspect $10M of COVID protective gear left in the rain

After nearly $10 million of PPE was rained on outside the San Mateo County Event Center, the Marines have been called in to do an inspection.

"I don't know, we were giving a lot of stuff out, I have no idea or understanding if any of that stuff there was stuff we gave Seton or any other hospital," said Callagy. "You're absolutely right, we were in the early days really trying to provide for everyone to make sure that everyone had PPE and that no one went without."

Callagy told the board, his office will check with hospitals to make sure they're storing any PPE provided by the county properly.

Mike Callagy: "We can certainly investigate that more."

David Canepa: "I think we had the best intentions, right, we had the best intentions in trying to get that PPE out, I guess what's disappointing is sometimes with the best intentions, there is a system failure, and the system has failed us."

Finally, the board voted to allow a nonprofit, the Wine County Marines, to bring their connections and expertise to salvage what they can and donate PPE to legitimate groups working in the community. 90 groups have responded so far and will pick up the supplies starting Thursday.

RELATED: Bay Area medical center pleads for PPE donations as pandemic worsens

Medical staff at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center made an urgent plea Wednesday morning for personal protective equipment (PPE) and funds as they prepare to weather the third wave of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.