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Pritzker says secret charter flights to China needed to keep feds from seizing medical supplies


(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker defended his decision Wednesday to arrange for two charter flights to transport millions of masks and gloves from China to Illinois to bolster the state’s limited supply of personal protective equipment as it responds to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flights, which cost about $1.7 million, were listed in a new state comptroller portal that tracks state spending on the public health crisis.

Details of the fights are being kept secret out of fear President Donald Trump’s administration might seize the cargo, Pritzker said.

“It is true that the federal government seems to be interrupting supplies that are being sent elsewhere in the nation, so I wanted to make sure we received what we ordered,” the governor said Wednesday.

State officials arranged the flights to Shanghai with FedEx Trade Networks. Records show the state prepaid $888,275 for each flight, according to the comptroller’s website.

So far, the state has spent $174 million on its response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including millions for medical equipment such as ventilators.

Details about the state’s spending come as the spread of COVID-19 continues in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced 1,346 new coronavirus cases and 80 additional deaths.

Public health officials reported a total of 24,593 cases, including 948 deaths, statewide as of Wednesday. Cases have been reported in 89 of the state’s 102 counties. Union County was the latest county to join the list.