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McCormick Place Gets Hospital Beds; Deaths Include Inmate

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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.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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