Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited the city's McCormick Place Friday, which has just completed the second phase of its transformation into an "alternate care facility" to house coronavirus patients.
Calling it an "astronomical feat," Lightfoot toured the building to see additional progress made on construction since she and Gov. J.B. Pritzker visited the site one week prior. She was joined Friday by Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter, as well as members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois National Guard.
Last month, Pritzker and Lightfoot announced plans to turn parts of McCormick Place, the city's convention center, into a facility with a total of 3,000 beds for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who don't require intensive care in hopes of alleviating the burden on Chicago's healthcare system during the coronavirus outbreak.
The first delivery of beds took place at the end of March, Pritzker said when speaking at the facility last week, after the Army Corps of Engineers readied the first 500 of those beds to treat patients.
An additional 1,750 patient rooms were constructed by Friday, Lightfoot said, marking the completion of the second phase of the building's transformation - which she said was running a week ahead of its scheduled completion by the end of April.
"I want to stress just how remarkable it was to pull this all together in a short amount of time," she said. "Studies will be made about just how fast this project came together."
The Illinois National Guard procured the final materials earlier this week to complete the third phase of the project, Lightfoot's office said, flying two military grade planes to Oregon and back to retrieve 500 individual isolation tents that provide a negative pressure environment. These will allow healthcare workers to treat moderate acuity patients at the facility, officials said.
"This is the product of all of us working together," Lightfoot said last week. "The size the speed, and the scope is unlike anything else in the country."
The city also hired more than 400 people to care for patients at McCormick Place this week, according to Lightfoot, who said the doctors and nurses came from across Illinois and the country. More than 300 of those healthcare workers have completed the onsite training, her office said, and will be conducting clinical simulations onsite prior to admitting patients.
McCormick Place is one of four "alternate care facilities" being set up across the Chicago area. The other three include: the former Advocate Sherman Hospital Campus in Elgin, the Metro South Health Center in Blue Island and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park.
All three together will host upwards of 730 beds, not necessarily all coronavirus patients but simply anyone needing medical attention, in order to relieve pressure on the overburdened healthcare system, Pritzker said.