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Durbin: Pritzker aiming to organize an airlift of COVID-19 supplies from China to Illinois

The governor also has found an Illinois company with supplies to sell - but was seeking a better price from another state, Durbin said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on MSNBC “Morning Joe” on April 1, 2020 talking about need for COVID-19 supplies for Illinois.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on MSNBC “Morning Joe” on April 1, 2020 talking about need for COVID-19 supplies for Illinois.
MSNBC screenshot

Speaking from his backyard deck in Springfield, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday that Gov. J.B. Pritzker is calling the CEOs of major airlines to organize an airlift to haul personal protection equipment from China to Illinois.

Durbin also said Pritzker told him about an Illinois company with COVID-19 supplies to sell — yet was “playing hard to get” while seeking a better price from another state for this equipment now referred to in shorthand simply as PPE.

For weeks now, Pritzker and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been publicly outraged that states are competing against themselves — and the federal government — in bidding for desperately needed masks, gowns, ventilators and other supplies as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Durbin said, “I talk to the governor almost every day and yesterday he said he felt like a shipping clerk. He was calling the major airlines that he knew the CEOs to be available, asking and begging them to help Illinois secure goods from China, PPE from China.

“They couldn’t get flights, cargo flights out. 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.”

Durbin said the Illinois company was profiteering on the disaster and that was “unacceptable.”

“Our governor was telling me about a producer, in our state, who has this equipment who is just playing hard to get when it comes to making it available. He is looking for a better price from another state,” Durbin said.

Durbin said President Donald Trump needed to use “every power at his disposal to mobilize” the nation. Trump has been reluctant to fully use the Defense production powers he has. Durbin said it might be for ideological reasons - a reluctance to impose mandates on the marketplace.

On March 28, Pritzker tweeted, “My team continues to scour the global supply chain for personal protective equipment and has already placed orders for millions of units of PPE. We have been shipping these out to counties across the state as needed and as they arrive.”

Durbin said in a tweet he also asked the EPA’s Chicago-based region to “donate any available masks, gloves, or gowns in EPA storage to our hospitals & health care workers without delay.”

On Tuesday, Durbin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Democratic Illinois House members sent a letter to Trump “urging the Administration to immediately implement a federally coordinated effort to meet Illinois’ need for personal protective equipment,” imploring him to organize a national procurement effort.

Trump was told in the letter about “the life-threatening shortage of respirators, masks, protective eyewear, face shields, gloves, gowns, and other protective equipment for health care workers and first responders in Illinois and across the country.”

Signing the letter were Democratic Reps. Bobby L. Rush; Robin Kelly; Jesús G. “Chuy” García; Mike Quigley; Sean Casten; Danny K. Davis; Raja Krishnamoorthi; Jan Schakowsky; Bradley S. Schneider; Bill Foster; Lauren Underwood and Cheri Bustos.

LATER TODAY: The Pritzker administration to hold a daily briefing on COVID-19 at the Thompson Center in Chicago at 2:30 p.m. Watch live: https://www.Illinois.gov/LiveVideo