Work underway to turn McCormick Place into field hospital

Work underway to turn McCormick Place into field hospital

Chicago’s McCormick Place will have 500 temporary hospital beds available by the end of this week, Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois National Guard are refurbishing the facility to help reduce the strain on area hospitals from the expected rise in COVID-19 patients. By the end of April, Pritzker said the facility should have 3,000 beds for non-acute patients who are unlikely to need intensive care.

Pritzker said officials are also looking into temporarily reopening the old Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin and MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island to house patients. Advocate Sherman moved to a new facility in 2009.

Pritzker stressed that the alternate care facilities are intended to support, not replace, the existing hospital system. Patients in need of hospitalization will first be directed to open hospital beds at underutilized facilities.

“If we never have to go beyond our existing facilities, we will all be extremely happy,” he said. “But since we can’t guarantee that and, in fact, we don’t have the data yet to suggest otherwise, we’re actively building out capacity.”

As of Monday, roughly 41 percent of the state’s 2,578 currently available ICU beds were in use, according to data from the state. About 68 percent of its 2,460 ventilators were in use. More than 41 percent of the state’s 13,522 medical and surgical beds were also being used, as were nearly 54 percent of its 1,512 isolation rooms.

Meanwhile, state officials announced eight more COVID-19-related deaths Monday, bringing the state’s total to 73.

One of the deaths is an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill. Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said 12 other inmates from the facility are currently being hospitalized after testing positive for the virus, seven of whom require ventilators.

An additional 77 inmates and 11 prison guards are being monitored in isolation after exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

There were 461 new COVID-19 cases reported Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 5,057 in the state in 52 counties.

Although the number of new cases was only about half of what was announced on Sunday, Ezike and Pritzker said there was no evidence the state has “flattened the curve.” The numbers can fluctuate due to the number of tests processed and reported to the state.

“You really have to look at a trend, not a single day,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker hopes to ramp up testing capacity in the state to 10,000 tests per day by next week. But he said Monday that he is concerned that access to swabs, reagents and other supplies could hamper those efforts. In some instances, he said labs have had to stop performing tests for a day because they ran out of one of the supplies.

“That will slow down and stop the entire process,” he said.

Ezike said the state is still prioritizing tests for hospitalized patients, seniors, high-risk patients with pre-existing conditions and those at congregate living facilities.

Pritzker said he remains frustrated by the federal effort to provide Illinois and other states with personal protective equipment. During a phone interview last week with President Donald Trump, Pritzker said he was promised 300,000 N95 face masks. Pritzker said Monday the state instead received surgical masks.

A third federal shipment of personal protective equipment arrived Sunday, and officials said they are in the process of distributing those to hospitals and other groups across the state. The total amount of masks, gloves and other equipment remains below what they have asked for, Pritzker said.

“I will say this federal shipment still pales in comparison to our requests and appears to be even smaller than our previous two shipments from the federal government,” he said.


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