After Gov. J.B. Pritzker criticized the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic during a CNN interview Sunday, President Donald Trump unleashed his fury in a tweet against the governors of Illinois and several other states.
“@JBPritzker Governor of Illinois, and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!” Trump said in the tweet.
.@JBPritzker, Governor of Illinois, and a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2020
Both Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had a quick response.
Pritzker tweeted: “You wasted precious months when you could’ve taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans. You should be leading a national response instead of throwing tantrums from the back seat. Where were the tests when we needed them? Where’s the PPE? Get off Twitter & do your job.”
PPE is shorthand for “Personal Protection Equipment,” masks and other items sorely needed by medical personnel across the nation.
Lightfoot tweeted: “.@realDonaldTrump, dear Lord — please step up and be a leader. While you have been yammering about hoaxes and fake news, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit all over America. @GovPritzker and others have filled this country’s leadership gap. Lead or get out of their way.”
Pritzker and the governors of California and New York — Gavin Newsom and Andrew Cuomo — have been pleading for resources from the federal government as the number of coronavirus cases explode.
On Sunday, Pritzker discussed the crucial need for additional federal assistance in getting more protective equipment desperately needed by medical personnel — and how individual orders from states to have people stay-at-home should have been imposed across the U.S.
Illinois’ stay-at-home order kicked in at 5 p.m. Saturday and is set to run through the end of the day April 7.
“These should have been done nationally. They haven’t been. But I have got to protect the 12.7 million people that live in my state. And I’m dedicated to that. It’s their health and safety that matters most to me. It will work,” Pritzker said.
Federal delay in procuring masks, gloves and other medically needed protective equipment has forced states to be “competing against each other” and overpaying as the coronavirus crisis continues to explode, Pritzker said.
With governors of other big states shopping the world for supplies with open wallets, Pritzker told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, “We’re all competing against each other. This should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government.”
Noting this, Pritzker said Trump’s volunteer plan “really hasn’t gone into effect in any way. And so, yes, we’re competing against each other. We’re competing against other countries. You know, it’s a wild, wild west … out there, and indeed, we’re overpaying, I would say for PPE because of that competition.”
In the last week, Trump ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to quarterback management of obtaining and distributing a variety of critically needed supplies, especially N95 masks, gowns and ventilators.
“I think FEMA being the central repository for everything that we need is very helpful. We’re not having to ping different agencies,” Pritzker said. “And I do think FEMA is more prepared for this than the other agencies were.
“So, for example, we have received some PPE in the past couple of weeks, about a quarter of what was an original request. We just just got a call this morning before I went on the air that we’re going to receive another shipment of PPE later today or tomorrow from FEMA.
“But it’s a fraction still of what we’ve requested. We need millions of masks and hundreds of thousands of gowns and gloves and the rest. And unfortunately, we’re getting still just a fraction of that. So we’re out on the open market competing for these items that we so badly need. And we’re succeeding in some ways. But we still need more. So I’ve got people on the phones working the phones, calling, you know, across the world, frankly, to get this stuff shipped to Illinois.”
On the same CNN show, FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor, pressed by Tapper, could not say how many masks, swabs, tests and ventilators have been shipped by FEMA.
Asked about masks, he said, “I can’t give you a rough number. I can tell you that it’s happening every day. And my mission is operational coordination of all of these things. And that’s my focus. So, whether it’s supplies, vents, you name it, we are finding it, identifying it and shipping it to those who have requested it.”
FEMA will “focus our efforts on hot spots who need it the most.”
Gaynor defended Trump for not invoking the emergency procurement powers in the Defense Production Act, saying, “we haven’t had to use it,” even as governors are crying out for medical goods.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday on FOX News that General Motors is trying to help.
“We’re actively trying to find ventilators or bring ventilators back online that perhaps were retired. So the fact that GM is really serious about moving into that space right now — this is a global crisis, this is an auto maker that helped make us the . . . arsenal of democracy when we were in the war. This is something that — we have a battle on our hands, and it’s got to be all-hands-on-deck, so we’re grateful for their leadership.”
CONGRESS WORKING ON STIMULUS PACKAGE
The Senate worked over the weekend on a trillion dollar-plus emergency assistance package that might be ready for consideration on Monday. Pritzker said what the state of Illinois will need the most are block grants from the federal government, which Congress has essentially ended in recent years.
Tapper asked Pritzker if a sticking point in the congressional negotiations was “whether to spend more on sending checks directly to members of the public or to put that money into state unemployment programs for the states to distribute. What would you like?”
“First, we’ve got to fund unemployment,” Pritzker replied. “There’s no question about that. And the federal government needs to step up.”
Pritzker said if individuals are sent checks — the sum under discussion is $1,000 to start for an adult — it should be means tested, or based on income.
“There’s no reason to send a check to Michael Bloomberg,” Pritzker said of a fellow billionaire.
“If that’s something the federal government decides to do, fine. But there’s another thing that isn’t really being talked about, which is state governments are out here. As I said, we’re on our own, and we’re having to spend quite a lot of money to do things that really are the job of the federal government.
“But we’re doing it because I’ve got to protect the people here. All across the country, our budgets are going to be slammed. You know, our revenues are going down. No doubt precipitously. And our spending has to go up because we’re saving people’s lives.”
NOTE: Pritzker will give his daily briefing on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic at 2:30 p.m. today. Watch live at https://www.Illinois.gov/LiveVideo.