Gov. J.B. Pritzker is planning to obtain millions of masks and gloves from China and bring those supplies back to Illinois on charter jets — but he’s keeping the details secret out of fear the Trump administration might seize the cargo for the federal stockpile, sources said Tuesday, April 14, 2020.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced Tuesday that the state has spent more than $174 million on purchases related to COVID-19, including supplies such as ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns, protective eyewear, and hand sanitizer.
But one of the items on the list of expenditures was unusual: two invoices, each for $888,275, to FedEx Trade Networks Transport for “aircraft charter flight to Shanghai, China for COVID-19 response. … Prepayment required.”
Jordan Abudayyeh, the press secretary for Pritzker, wouldn’t provide details about the flights, including when they will happen, how many there will be and what the routes are.
She released a statement saying, “The Governor has clearly outlined the challenges this administration has faced as we’ve worked around the clock to purchase PPE [personal protective equipment] for our healthcare workers and first responders.”
“The supply chain has been likened to the Wild West, and once you have purchased supplies, ensuring they get to the state is another herculean feat. These flights are carrying millions of masks and gloves our workers need. They’re scheduled to land in Illinois in the coming weeks and the state is working to ensure these much-needed supplies are protected and ready for distribution around the state.”
A source knowledgeable about the flights said the governor didn’t want to release too many details “because we’ve heard reports of Trump trying to take PPE in China and when it gets to the United States.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Pritzker was calling on CEOs of major airlines to organize an airlift to haul personal protective equipment from China to Illinois.
“They couldn’t get flights, cargo flights out,” Durbin said on April 1 on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “You know, I’ve got a very talented governor here, and he’s dealt with big business, but to think it’s his responsibility to airlift what should have been in the national stockpile is incredible at this moment.”
Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have complained that states are competing against themselves — and the federal government — in bidding for medical supplies.
On April 5, Trump responded to the criticism during a press conference.
”There is a governor, I hear him complaining all the time, Pritzker. He is always complaining,” Trump said, listing his administration’s COVID-19 projects for Illinois.
“In Illinois, the governor couldn’t do his job, so we had to help him,” the president said.
Chicago Sun-Times: Pritzker arranging secret flights from China to bring millions of masks and gloves to Illinois
Featured and Top Image Courtesy Of Wikipedia. Photo courtesy of Chi Hack Night – Creative Commons License