The San Mateo County Event Center, located in San Mateo, Calif, served as a mass COVID-19 testing and vaccination site during the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2021 it hosted its first large business gathering since the start of the pandemic. (Photo courtesy San Mateo County Event Center)

Roughly $7 million in surplus safety equipment and cleaning supplies at the San Mateo Event Center was damaged in recent months after being moved outside and remaining there during this winter’s storms, San Mateo County officials said Friday.

The county bought the supplies – including non-medical-grade medical gowns, face shields, goggles, bleach and mop buckets – early in the COVID-19 pandemic amid global supply shortages, according to County Manager Mike Callagy.

As supply issues for hospital-grade equipment waned, so did the local need for the supplies, especially those that were not suited for medical use.

The supplies do not include the county’s stock of medical-grade personal protective equipment like high-quality masks and gloves, which continue to be stored indoors in a separate facility.

“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.”

The materials were moved outside to a fenced-in area in mid-September to accommodate an event at the venue. According to the county, the supplies should have been placed back inside after the event but remained outdoors.

The county also did not have indoor storage space available in another facility, according to Callagy.

The county has worked with the California Office of Emergency Services in previous months to offer the supplies to health care providers, schools and other states, but found few takers.

Callagy said the county plans to donate the supplies to a nonprofit organization once it inspects and cleans them. His statement did not state whether the county has decided on an organization that will receive the supplies.

The county also does not anticipate the damages will affect its ability to provide protective equipment to local health care facilities.