'Has to be investigated': Marines tagged to inspect $10M of COVID protective gear left in the rain

The gear was reportedly moved outside a San Mateo event center for a September conference, and was inexplicably never put away.
SAN MATEO COUNTY, Calif. -- The ABC7 News I-Team report from Thursday night about more than $10 million of brand new PPE left out soaking in the rain is getting major reaction across the country, and action from officials in San Mateo County.

It was more than 20,000 square feet of boxes containing personal protective equipment.

This is your federal tax dollars -- hospital gowns, face shields, goggles, and much more outside at the San Mateo County Event Center since last September.

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

"It has to be investigated," Congresswoman Jackie Speier said.

Congresswoman Speier, who represents San Francisco and Peninsula, came to San Mateo to talk transportation, but we asked about the major PPE mistake we uncovered.

She called it troubling, but said to remember the county has been a leader in drive-through testing, vaccinations and boosters.

"We need to keep in mind that San Mateo County has really been at the forefront, and we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country and that's good news for all of us," she said.

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Our story about the PPE was something the event center's CEO, Dana Stoehr, did not want you to see.

Dan Noyes: "Why is all the stuff going to waste here?"

Dana Stoehr: "So, can you stop filming?"

Dan Noyes: "No, I work at Channel Seven, I need to ask questions."

The county manager told Dan Noyes he didn't know all that PPE was sitting out, exposed to the elements for months.

"It clearly is a mistake by the county and ultimately, I'm responsible for the county. So, you know, I take full responsibility for it, San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy said.

Callagy says he learned Friday that event center staff moved all that PPE outside to accommodate the Software as a Service annual conference September 27-29. He doesn't know why the supplies were not moved back inside, but he is hiring an independent investigator to look into it and calling in the Marines.

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



"And so every single piece is being inspected and right now, we're running over 90% that we're finding is still in good, perfect condition," James Brown of the Wine Country Marines said.

Brown is organizing a distribution of the PPE that can be salvaged. He says the rain damaged the exterior boxes, but the plastic bags inside saved many of the items.

The veterans' advocacy group will be giving it all away to qualified groups on January 25 by appointment only.

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"We don't want anybody to take this and put it on eBay because that's in essence money laundering, you're taking federal taxpayer dollar purchased productions and you're turning it into cash for you," Brown said, continuing, "We're not going to allow that, but what we do want to do is get this into the hands of any organization that serves the community. If you're out there serving the homeless or doing a food kitchen or a shelter, if you're treating patients, any of that."

Groups with a legitimate mission can find more details on the Wine Country Marine website.

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