Pritzker and his staff operate from a state office building downtown, in Chicago’s largely deserted Loop. “All of us, really, are working between sixteen and eighteen hours a day,” he told me, on March 29th. “I guess that includes lunch and dinner, but we’re here at the office.” They order takeout meals. Pritzker, a Hyatt heir and venture capitalist who contributed a hundred and seventy-one million dollars to his own election campaign, in 2018, and has dipped into his pockets for millions of dollars for state projects, picks up the tab. He usually gets up at about 4:30 a.m. and sets to work well before dawn. That day, he said the first thing he did was read an article that recommended the widespread use of masks to limit the spread of the virus. The next thing, he said, was to call a public official—he didn’t say who—to ask how doable that would be. “And then I began looking at our stockpile of surgical masks. That was the beginning of a day.”
During his quest to acquire tests, Pritzker learned, last Friday, that Abbott Laboratories, located in a northern suburb of Chicago, was about to release daily fifty thousand covid-19 tests that can return results in minutes. That night, Priztker told me, he called the company’s executives, “to say, ‘I want every test you’ve got.’ Literally, I said, ‘I’ll buy every test you’ll sell me.’” They reported that the federal government was also trying to buy them. Pritzker recalled replying, “Well, hey, can we get ahead of them, because they usually don’t fulfill on that for weeks?”
So far I’ve been pretty happy with how JB and Lightfoot have been leading the charge in Illinois and a Chicago, respectively. Given the size of the city and how much international travel comes through the city, they have done a great job at limiting the spread, relatively speaking. Maybe being in the middle of the country has a lot to do with it, compared to LA and NY, and they certainly weren’t the earliest to take drastic, preventative measures.
The graph in this tweet speaks volumes:
Looks like the curve is flattening significantly in Chicago; the result of uncharacteristically competent state government and early sweeping closures pic.twitter.com/uxUCLQgWNQ— Max Temkin (@MaxTemkin) April 3, 2020
Given the few positives we can take from this, I’m still gobsmacked the federal government has stepped in to use its purchasing power and distribute PPE. The fact governors and mayors have to bid against each other is absolutely ludicrous.