Officials plan to reopen Westlake Hospital to house COVID-19 patients

Officials plan to reopen Westlake Hospital to house COVID-19 patients

Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park is reopening in the coming weeks to help treat new coronavirus patients, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Thursday.

The facility, which closed last August, will include 230 temporary hospital beds.

It is the third former hospital that will re-open to support the existing hospital infrastructure. Officials previously announced plans to temporarily reopen the old Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin and MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island, which combined will serve 500 patients.

Pritzker said work at these facilities, in addition to the planned 3,000 hospital beds at Chicago’s McCormick Place, will be completed “on a rolling basis” through April. He said the administration is also working to add capacity at existing hospitals. And it’s finalizing a deal to open an alternate care facility in central Illinois. Pritzker said details will be released in the coming weeks.

“Because of the lack of immunity in our population, there is a greater risk of overwhelming our medical systems if too many people get sick from it all at once,” he said. “It’s that simple, and that is why we are building up the necessary hospital capacity and alternate care facilities as much as we can muster in the coming weeks.”

Officials announced 16 more deaths Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 157. In addition, there were 715 new cases, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases to 7,695 in 61 counties.

Unlike in recent press conferences, Illinois Department of Public Health Dr. Ngozi Ezike said she wanted to provide some positive news. She said the third and fourth patients confirmed to have the virus, a couple in their 70s, have since recovered and are doing well. A survey this week sent to patients who contracted COVID-19 found about 50 percent of individuals recovered after seven days.

“We’ll continue to do those surveys,” she said. “We’ll do that weekly and we’ll continue to report because we do need people to have that hope and know that it’s not a death sentence.”

There have been 43,656 individuals tested in Illinois.

Pritzker said he has been on the phone daily with companies globally in his search for personal protective equipment. As trade slowly begins to pick up in China, Pritzker said he hopes to place Illinois in the front of the line for supplies.

But he said a request to have equipment bound for Illinois included on an “airbridge” coordinated by the Trump administration to speed supplies to states most impacted by COVID-19 has so far been declined.

Pritzker told reporters that North Chicago’s Abbott Laboratories provided the state 15 machines Thursday that can deliver COVID-19 positive results within five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.

“They’re manufacturing these for the entire nation, but they have said that Illinois is going to be, because we’re their home, that we’re a priority for them,” he said.

As Easter approaches, officials reiterated Thursday that churches and other places of worship should not hold any in-person services while the stay-at-home order is in effect. Ezike said she understands it is a difficult ask for many Illinoisans, but one that is vital to mitigate further spread of COVID-19.

“We all must make the sacrifice,” she said. “Then on the other side of this pandemic, we can gather at the mosque, the synagogue, the church, the museum, the library – all of these places that we love.”



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