/Illinois gov: States fought over PPE like a sick Hunger Games – Business Insider
Illinois gov: States fought over PPE like a sick Hunger Games - Business Insider

Illinois gov: States fought over PPE like a sick Hunger Games – Business Insider


  • Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker criticized the White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in a virtual congressional hearing on Wednesday.
  • Pritzker said in the early days of the US outbreak, states were left on their own to secure protective equipment for frontline workers, causing domestic competition that drove up the price of life-saving products.
  • He said White House directed states to acquire their own supplies, instead of letting them take from the national stockpile.
  • “In the midst of a global pandemic states were forced to play some sort of sick ‘Hunger Games’ game show to save the lives of our people,” Pritzker said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The governor of Illinois criticized the federal government for leaving states to fight over personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early days of the US coronavirus outbreak, as he testified in a virtual congressional hearing about the national COVID-19 response on Wednesday.
Gov. JB Pritzker said the pandemic required “a national response” but “that’s not what happened.”
“The federal government wasn’t leading. We were,” Pritzker said, according to CBS Chicago.
He specifically called out the White House for directing states to acquire their own supplies of PPE, instead of handing out supplies from the national stockpile.
Pritzker said this turned the hunt for PPE into a state-versus-state bidding war that made supplies much more expensive.
“A choice between bad and worse was muddled further by the White House’s broken promises on testing supplies and PPE deliveries,” he said. “We were in a bidding war for life-saving supplies against each other and against our international allies. We’re paying $5 for masks that should have cost 85 cents.”
“In the midst of a global pandemic states were forced to play some sort of sick ‘Hunger Games’ game show to save the lives of our people,” Pritzker said.
“Let me be clear, this is not a reality TV show. There are real things that are happening in the United States.”

 

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.


Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

He also criticized the White House’s “Project Airbridge,” reportedly the brainchild of Jared Kushner, an effort in which FEMA worked with hospital suppliers to obtain PPE from Asia, and airlift them to areas of the US in most need.
Pritzker said private companies hampered the process because they were focused on making money.
“I think the airbridge was an utter and complete failure in the sense that most of the supplies needed to go to areas where there’s a great need, and not necessarily to where some private or profit distributor thinks they need to feed a pre-existing customer,” he said.
“I can remember one in particular, who basically said to me: ‘I will allow you to acquire this amount of these PPE items or this equipment, if you will up your order by X amount, so that you’re greater than this other customer who is promising to acquire, you know, a certain amount.'”
“So essentially pitting me against another customer in an environment in which we have a pandemic, people are dying,” Pritzker said.

 

Healthcare workers help each other with their personal protective equipment at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, on July 5, 2020.


Associated Press

Business Insider has previously detailed how the federal government’s response to the crisis caused chaos and confusion among states that were desperate to acquire much-needed equipment to fight the outbreak.
President Donald Trump put the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in charge of disbursing equipment from the national stockpile, and there were multiple incidents in which states ended up having their orders diverted elsewhere without explanation.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told CNN in April about an order of 500 ventilators being “swept up” by FEMA.
“We’re competing against any other state, every other country,” he said. “Now we’re even competing against the federal government.”
Polis also said at the time it was confusing to be both bidding for much-needed supplies, and trying to order through the federal government.
“Either be in or out, folks … Either you’re buying them and you’re providing them to the states and letting us know what we’re going to get and when we’re going to get them. Or stay out and let us buy them,” Polis said.
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