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Illinois Comptroller's Office Finds Itself Paying $3.5 Million For PPE In McDonald's Parking Lot During Coronavirus Crisis

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the number of cases of COVID-19 climbs, so does the demand for personal protective equipment, or PPE.

It is so serious that obtaining the gear can sometimes feel like a James Bond op.

CBS 2's Charlie De Mar on Tuesday night walked us through a $3.5 million deal that played out in a fast food parking lot.

The rules of business and order have gone out the window. The supply is low and the competition is cutthroat

Thus, Illinois roads have been used to run millions in order to bring back much needed supplies.

The first multimillion-dollar deal went down along Interstate 55, more than 100 miles from the state capital of Springfield – in, of all places, a McDonald's parking lot in Dwight, Illinois.

"What is going on? This shouldn't be happening," said Illinois state Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

Indeed, it is even surprising for Mendoza, the keeper of the state's checkbook.

"Literally, think about this - it sounds like we're doing some sketchy drug deal when we're just trying to save people's lives," Mendoza said.

You've heard the cries for more PPE from state leaders and those on the front line. Illinois has been forced to bid against other states.

On Monday, Gov. JB Pritzker revealed what Illinois has asked the federal government for compared to what the state has received - in many cases just a fraction.

"It is literally the Wild, Wild West in trying to secure PPEs," Mendoza said.

The claws have come out, and Illinois has gotten aggressive.

"In no universe does it makes sense to be like, go in and meet some guy you've never met with a three and a half-million-dollar, check, and be safe or comfortable doing that, but that's where we're at these days," Mendoza said.

But Mendoza's staff has hopped on I-55 on two separate occasions, each time armed with checks for $3.5 million.

"We don't want to lose out to any other states," Mendoza said.

After the successful drop at the McDonald's parking lot, days later more N95 respirator masks and eye shields were purchased from a vendor at a Road Ranger parking lot in Minooka.

"You know that if you were to drop the ball, people are going to die, so there is no room," Mendoza said. "There's no leeway in making a mistake right now."

Comptroller Mendoza said the state has spent roughly $93 million in purchases in the fight against COVID-19 and expects that number to climb quickly.


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