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McCormick Place Gets Hospital Beds; Deaths Include Inmate

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois' director of public health, speaks at a daily briefing on the pandemic
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Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Illinois' director of public health, speaks at a daily briefing on the pandemic

By Saturday, officials expect 500 hospital beds to be in place at a converted McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago to deal with the overflow of COVID-19 patients. 

The massive facility off Lakeshore Drive is expected by mid-April to have up to 3,000 beds, including ICU units, to deal, if needed with COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 5,000 cases statewide, most in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Gov. J.B Pritzker announced the progress in his daily press briefing on Monday.

“If we never have to go beyond our existing facilities, we will be extremely happy,’’ he said.  “But since we can’t guarantee that, and, in fact, we don’t have the data to suggest otherwise, we’re actively building out capacity.”

In addition, the state is expected to open temporary beds at  now-closed MetroSouth Hospital in Blue Island and Advocate Sherman hospital in Elgin.

Among the eight Illinois deaths from COVID-19 reported Monday was an individual at Stateville Correctional Center.  There are also nearly 80 inmates at the Joliet prison who have been placed in insolation. Also, among those in isolation were 11 staff members


Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said the  congested setting of prisons makes it difficult to do social distancing.

“Those who are incarcerated obviously live and work and eat and study and recreate all within that same environment, heightening the potential for COVID-19 to spread really quickly once it’s introduced,” she said.

Pritzker said there are protocols being followed at prisons including use of PPE.

Clusters of cases at nursing homes were also reported in Joliet, Taylorville and Belleville, according to Ezike. 

There have been 73 confirmed deaths in Illinois. An additional 461 cases were reported Monday.

Copyright 2020 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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