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McCormick Place Field Hospital Being Phased Out, City Says

Local hospitals haven't been overwhelmed amid the coronavirus pandemic, so the city and state are deciding how to phase out the site.

Members of the Illinois Air National Guard assemble medical equipment at the McCormick Place Convention Center.
U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jay Grabiec
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CHICAGO — The city has already started making plans for how to take down the field hospital set up at McCormick Place.

The famous convention center was turned into a field hospital — or, as officials called it, an alternate care facility — that officials planned could have up to 3,000 hospital beds. But local hospitals haven’t been overwhelmed, so the city and state are deciding how to phase out the site.

People who are currently receiving care at McCormick Place will continue to receive care, but “plans for deconstruction are currently underway,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office.

The negative-pressure tents that were set up to help more severely ill patients will remain at McCormick Place, according to the Mayor’s Office. Officials want to ensure they can be used in case hospital capacity diminishes since the new stay at home order has allowed hospitals to restart elective surgeries.

“While this marks a critical moment and a large step forward in our collective fight against COVID-19, we must stay the course until data shows further progress in a reduction of new cases and as widespread testing comes online,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. JB Pritzker said in a press release.

Workers built the facility, complete with nurses stations and a pharmacy, in just five days as officials worried hospitals could be overwhelmed during the pandemic. Models created by experts had predicted the Chicago area could see 40,000 people hospitalized within weeks of the start of the crisis.

But the stay at home order and social distancing meant the virus didn’t spread as quickly and hospitals weren’t overwhelmed, officials have said. In recent days, Pritzker said they’d decided to only set up 2,000 of the hospital beds there.

Health care workers who were set to be “deployed” at McCormick Place will be sent elsewhere, like nursing homes that have been hit hard by COVID-19, Pritzker said earlier this week.

“We’ve stood down 1,000 of those beds and it looks like we’re gonna have the ability to stand down much more of that facility,” Pritzker said Wednesday. “The reason we didn’t hit a higher peak is because of all of you at home … . But we need to be ready.”

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