The coronavirus pandemic has turned the market for protective gear for health care workers into a free-for-all. The Feds have left finding gear up to the states, so when Illinois needed more, it knew it was going to have to fend for itself.
The state knew its normal channels weren't going to work, so it sent an email to every vendor the state had ever worked with. Within hours, someone answered the call.
The way Illinois finally got the masks it needed was practically the plot to a heist thriller — so we turned it into one for the first of our Quarantine Edition of Planet Money Shorts.