Governor JB Pritzker has announced plans to temporarily convert part of McCormick Place into a care facility for patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms. The state of Illinois and city of Chicago are partnering with the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.
“Based on science, data, and the guidance of health experts, our approach to fighting this virus is two-pronged: suppress the spread and increase hospital capacity to meet the need,” Governor Pritzker said.
“A critical component of increasing our capacity is identifying and building out additional facilities across the state to support our existing hospitals and healthcare system,” Pritzker added.
The temporary facility will relieve pressure on hospitals, freeing up beds for patients who exhibit more severe symptoms. The McCormick Place facility will have up to 500 beds. The state says it is acting in anticipation of a surge in positive COVID-19 diagnoses in the weeks to come.
“Given the anticipated needs of Chicago’s healthcare system in the coming weeks, the city is proud to partner with Governor Pritzker and state officials to establish surge capacity facilities to relieve the hospital system so it can focus on acute care patients,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“Chicago is committed to providing our residents and healthcare workers with the resources they need in the face of the rapidly escalating COVID-19 crisis. The conversion of McCormick Place marks another step forward in our plan to provide safe, secure sites so that Chicagoans can return to health. We’re all in this together,” Lightfoot added.
Increased number of cases requires more beds
The number of coronavirus cases has increased rapidly in Illinois. On March 22, the state reported 1,049 cases. Meanwhile, the state reported 5,057 total cases earlier today. Due to limited COVID-19 testing nationwide, the number of actual cases is likely much higher.
To speed up construction of the temporary hospitals, Governor Pritzker has activated 30 airmen from the Illinois National Guard. They will assist with general labor associated with the project. The facility is receiving $15 million in federal funding from FEMA to support the Army Corps’ construction plan. Construction will conclude before the end of April.
In addition to McCormick Place, the state and city are creating temporary bed capacity at MetroSouth Hospital in Blue Island. The state is also working to temporarily create COVID-19 bed capacity at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. However, it is not clear when those facilities will open.