Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday toured the McCormick Place, which has been transformed into an "alternate care facility" to house hundreds, and eventually thousands, of coronavirus patients.
Pritzker and Lightfoot previously announced plans to turn parts of the building into a facility with a total of 3,000 beds for coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who don't require intensive care. Following a tour of the site Friday, state health officials announced an additional 1,209 cases in Illinois, which is the biggest daily spike in cases since the pandemic began.
The first delivery of beds took place over the weekend, according to Pritzker, and the Army Corps of Engineers said that the first 500 of those beds were ready as of Friday. The buildout will continue, officials say, with a goal of finishing the set-up by the end of April.
"These are carpenters who are showing up and they're building out this amazing facility in five days. Five days," Gov. Pritzker said Thursday. "And you can see it on their faces how proud they are to be doing it. They know they're doing something that's going to save people's lives," he continued, calling the project "amazing."
The facility is being divided into three units, including one that will consist of negative-pressure isolation pods for up to 750 patients exhibiting high transmission symptoms.
"This is the product of all of us working together," Mayor Lightfoot said. "The size the speed, and the scope is unlike anything else in the country."
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.
Also on Friday, Chicago city officials announced agreements with hotels to house health care workers interacting with coronavirus patients.
Starting next Wednesday, the London House and the Godfrey Hotel capacity will be reserved for healthcare workers including doctors, nurses, orderlies, lab technicians and custodial staff.
"This has been a remarkable experience for all of us," Lightfoot added. "No one expected that we were going to be in this fight for our lives every single day."