Chicago's McCormick Place to transform into makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- More than 3,000 COVID-19 patients could soon be treated inside a makeshift hospital at Chicago's McCormick Place, the Army Corps of Engineers said Friday.

With more than half of Illinois hospital beds now filled, engineers are transforming the convention center to provide much-needed aid during the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. JB Pritzker confirmed Saturday that the state is working with federal resources on a $75 million project to treat COVID-19 patients at McCormick Place.

The governor said he will announce more details about the plan in the days ahead.

Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said this is uncharted territory.

"I did not think that we could meet the COVID standard in a massive, big building but my engineers are telling me 'I think we got the capability to do that,'" said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, who leads the corps, at a Pentagon briefing.

Semonite said with $75 million and direction from FEMA, three of the sprawling venue's halls will be used to treat people battling three general tiers of illness.

Soon, Hall C will be ready for 500 patients with less severe symptoms, while Hall A will handle most of the patients.

Hall A has space for 1,800 people sickened by the coronavirus.

Semonite said that space is "going to be a little higher on the complexity of their injuries."

"Hall B is the hardest one," according to the Army Corps of Engineers' chief, because that space will be entirely "self-contained units."

Once those plans are finalized, the agency expects 750 people to be treated in that space.

Hall B will need individual spaces and right now the Army Corps of Engineers is determining if those should be isolated containers or tents.

Semonite said his team is planning for possible contracts now. He said this could all be built and ready by April 24.

The Javits Center emergency hospital in New York City, conversely, was completed in just days. But that space is designed to treat non-coronavirus patients.

Chicago officials said the city is working with state and federal partners to make sure there are enough supplies and health care workers at McCormick Place and across the area.
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