Illinois spent $17 million on masks from China that may be unusable
The state is attempting to shore up its supply of personal protection equipment, but received millions of masks the state health department recommended only using in a crisis.
For the past week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been working to arrange shipments of masks and gloves to be distributed to Illinois medical personnel, but $17 million worth of masks from China may only be usable in a crisis, WGN-TV reports.
The state spent $17 million on the Chinese KN95 masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said were an acceptable alternative to N95 masks. Missouri’s health department tested the KN95 masks, found they did not meet their standards and recalled 48,000 of them.
Missouri’s move prompted Illinois Department of Public Health officials to issue an alert that the Chinese masks did not meet standards, recommended they only be used in a crisis and that medical personnel stick to N95 masks. IDPH is not recalling masks that have already been distributed. It also warned of counterfeit masks on the market.
On April 14, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Pritzker had set up secret flights to China to gather $174 million worth of medical equipment to fight COVID-19 as states compete with each other for supplies. The Sun-Times found Illinois made two payments to FedEx of $888,275 to charter a plane to carry personal protection equipment, or PPE, from Shanghai.
State leaders described a Wild West environment in which they were forced to seek medical supplies. Pritzker has repeatedly criticized the federal government for not helping to direct supplies where they are needed, leaving Illinois with little choice but to gather medical equipment on its own without consulting the federal government.
On CNN, Pritzker said he was moving on without the federal government’s help.
“That’s the landscape we’re operating in, competing with other states, other countries, and even our own federal government for supplies – so if an airlift is what it takes to bring the PPE to protect our nurses, firefighters, police officers and other essential workers, then it’s an airlift we’ll use – without hesitation,” Pritzker said on April 19.
The White House and Trump have fired back, stating the federal government has been providing Illinois with the resources they need. Trump said Pritzker was “complaining all the time” and “couldn’t do his job.”
The second FedEx flight with supplies from China arrived early on April 20 and will be checked at the state’s warehouse. The quality of the masks on the shipment is unknown.