Pritzker, Lightfoot Tour McCormick Place COVID-19 Facility as Cases, Deaths Soar

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday toured McCormick Place, which is being transformed into a 3,000-bed alternate care center for COVID-19 patients, as Illinois saw its highest single-day jump in deaths related to COVID-19.

The governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced 1,209 new coronavirus cases and 53 deaths, bringing the statewide totals up to 8,904 cases and 210 deaths.

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“That’s 210 fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and children who are no longer with us,” Pritzker said. “They are the impetus for us, as we prepare this facility at McCormick and the other alternate care facilities around the state because I never want to get to a place where our families or our friends don’t have a place to heal or our hospitals don’t have the capacity to give them the best chance possible to beat COVID-19.”

Pritzker said the increasing number of cases and deaths underline the state’s desperate need for additional hospital beds and treatment space for COVID-19 patients. That’s why work is underway on the Near South Side at the McCormick Place campus, the largest convention center in the U.S., to convert large portions of it into an alternate care facility for those with mild symptoms of the virus who don’t require intensive care.

Already, 500 beds have been set up at McCormick Place this week. At full build-out, the center will have three distinct units serving a combination of low-acuity patients and those exhibiting high transmission symptoms.

Teams continue working around the clock to complete the conversion of several spaces on the site’s campus. Between the three different units, the facility will have capacity to care for up to 3,000 patients and will be made fully operational in a series of phases in order to accommodate increased demand for care as quickly as possible.

Pritzker said previously that the beds at McCormick Place are intended for patients who would benefit from medical care but not need intensive care. But plans for the center could change as the pandemic evolves.

While McCormick will be Illinois’ largest alternate care facility, Pritzker said the state is setting up multiple other facilities, including: the former Advocate Sherman Hospital Campus in Elgin, the Metro South Health Center in Blue Island and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park. The governor also announced Friday the state is acquiring Vibra Hospital in Springfield to expand capacity in central Illinois.

Among the deaths announced Friday were 33 Cook County residents, including one male in his 30s, several in their 50s and 60s, and one female who was over 100, according to IDPH. Those who have contracted COVID-19 have ranged in age from under 12 months to older than 100 years.

Pritzker said the state is currently administering about 5,000 coronavirus tests per day, but he would like to see that total double.

Both he and Lightfoot had stern words for the federal government, in particular President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, for failing to provide Illinois and other states with enough personal protective equipment from the federal stockpile.

Kushner this week accused some governors of requesting additional supplies from the feds without knowing what they have in their respective supplies.

“We shouldn’t have to beg the federal government to step up and assume it’s responsibility here,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not waiting for the feds. We are doing what is necessary.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected] 

Coronavirus Prevention Tips and Resources

Officials advise taking preventive measures to slow the spread of the virus, including: 

—Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
—Using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
—Sneezing or coughing into a tissue and then disposing of the tissue
—Limiting contact with people regardless of how you feel
—Staying home when you are sick

Symptoms of COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

—New onset of fever, cough, shortness of breath
—Congestion in the nasal sinuses or lungs
—Sore throat, body aches or unusual fatigue

If you think you have COVID-19:

Call you doctor before showing up at their office. If you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, tell the operator that you think you have COVID-19. If possible, wear a mask before medical help arrives or presenting at a doctor’s office. More advice for those who think they have COVID-19.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Illinois’ COVID-19 website
Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) website
—IDPH COVID-19 hotline: 800-889-3931
—IPDH COVID-19 email link
City of Chicago COVID-19 website
—City of Chicago COVID-19 hotline: 312-746-4835
—City of Chicago COVID-19 email link

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