County of San Mateo Emergency Operations Center staff responds to the COVID-19 pandemic in this photo dated Apr. 14, 2020 at Redwood City, Calif. (Photo courtesy County of San Mateo Joint Information Center)

Tuesday marked one year since San Mateo County saw its first COVID-19 case.

On that day, March 2, 2020, the county also activated its 24/7 Emergency Operations Center, or EOC, which is responsible for providing communications to the public and coordinating vital services in response to the pandemic.

County Manager Mike Callagy, who also serves as the countywide head of emergency services, said in a news release Tuesday that the county has been challenged like never before.

“That was the pivotal moment when life as we knew it changed. We didn’t know at the time just how profound those changes would be,” Callagy said.

The EOC is part of the county’s Regional Operations Center, located in downtown Redwood City.

Dan Belville, director of the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services, said that the county mobilized quickly to respond to the pandemic by bringing key players together.

“This is incredibly important in the first stages of a crisis because you need to establish clear lines of communication and determine who is doing what,” Belville said in a statement. “And just as important, we were able to eventually wind down the in-person operation to minimize exposure without any loss in efficiency.”

In the past year, the county has seen 38,912 total cases and 521 deaths.

Now, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the decline following a surge in December and January.

With an adjusted case rate of four cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 1.7% — both lower than the statewide numbers — the county stayed in the red Tier 2 of the state’s reopening framework this week. If the county stays in the red tier for three consecutive weeks and the adjusted case rate drops below four, it could move into the orange Tier 3, which would loosen restrictions on businesses even more.

Even with this news, Callagy said during a media briefing Wednesday that people must stay vigilant and continue social distancing, wearing their masks and washing their hands — even if vaccinated.

“That is the most important thing, the most important message, that we want to get out right now. People cannot let their guard down. We’re on a good path and we want to continue on that path. We hope that the death that we saw would be the last one of this pandemic,” Callagy said.

In addition to its emergency response, the county has raised funds through the San Mateo County Strong Fund and provided $97.5 million in relief to individuals, families, small businesses and community organizations. This money went toward rent relief, food services, free public Wi-Fi, assistance for immigrants and more. More information on the county’s relief funds and allocations is available at

Initiatives like the Mask Mobile and the Great Plates program continue to provide free masks and free meals for seniors. The Great Plates program has had over 4,000 participants who have been served over 1.7 million meals, Callagy said.

View the full news release about the one-year anniversary of the county’s first COVID-19 case at