Rockford's Independent Newspaper

First phase of McCormick Place COVID-19 care facility completed

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – Governor JB Pritzker today joined Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Illinois National Guard, and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPA) to announce the completion of the first phase of work to transform the McCormick Place Campus into a new Alternate Care Facility (ACF) for COVID-19 patients.

The facility is constructed to serve COVID-19 patients who do not require intensive care, to expand existing capacity in Chicago’s health care system.

Phase One of the project provided 500 10′ X 10′ patient rooms furnished with beds and basic healthcare items, 14 nursing stations and fully built out support rooms for medical supply storage, pharmacy and housekeeping services. Medical personnel are already prepared to staff these first 500 beds, with nearly 140 contracted individuals and counting from around Illinois and the nation. By the end of April, the full site will bring an additional 3,000 patient rooms online. Hundreds more health care professionals will be added as the facility takes shape.

“Monumental, round-the-clock dedication got this done before we need it – preparing for saving lives in the event things become as bad as some have predicted,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois National Guard, FEMA and all of our hardworking union trades-people. In one week’s time, the heroes who came together to make this possible built us a facility larger than the largest hospital in Illinois.”

The state is closely tracking hospitalization data across the state (outlined in the chart below) and is continuing to prepare for a rapid increase in hospitalizations. As part of this approach, the state is working to stand up multiple additional facilities: the former Advocate Sherman Hospital Campus in Elgin, the Metro South Health Center in Blue Island, and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park. Today, the governor also announced that the state is acquiring Vibra Hospital in Springfield to expand capacity in central Illinois.

McCormick Place will be the state’s largest alternate care facility and one of the largest ACF’s in the nation. The completion of the first 500 beds marks a significant milestone, and the first of its kind in Illinois. Those who came together to make this possible—Army Corps of Engineers, the Illinois National Guard, FEMA, and notably the hardworking union laborers of Illinois—constructed a facility larger than the largest hospital in Illinois. It is estimated that the first phase of the facility could be operational to receive low-acuity patients as soon as next week.

“Since before this crisis reached our city’s doorstep, we have been working night and day to take proactive measures to ensure we stay ahead of capacity, and keep our residents safe and cared for,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “That has been possible thanks to the countless individuals who have been fighting on the front lines of this crisis, and inspiring Chicago every day by their dedication and leadership to our city during this historic crisis. We are all in this together and we will get through this together because of their efforts.”

For McCormick Place to be functional for patients in a clinical setting, the space has been divided into three separate units. All three units will be equipped with nurses stations and support rooms to treat patients in various types of care settings. Unit 1 will provide initial capacity for 500 patients, with tri-walled spaces for low-acuity patients. Unit 2 will provide capacity for 1,750 patients, with open-space care for fully mobile, low-acuity COVID-19 patients. Lastly, Unit 3, will provide negative-pressure isolation pods for up to 750 patients exhibiting high transmission symptoms.

The ACF will be led by Dr. Nick Turkal, a former Advocate Healthcare CEO and the newly named Executive Director of McCormick Place Alternate Care Facility. Turkal will be joined by Martin Judd who will serve as Chief Operating Officer, and Dr. Paul Merrick who will serve as clinical advisor for the facility. They will oversee the daily operations and ensure the safety of all patients and workers in the facility.

“This is an enormously difficult time for people across Chicago and the entire State, and here at McCormick Place we will have the ability to be of service not just our healthcare system but the entire city of Chicago,” said Dr. Nick Turkal, Executive Director of McCormick Place Alternate Care Facility. “This facility is ready to alleviate some of the strain on our hospitals and help our healthcare workers better care for our COVID-19 patients by providing support to COVID-19 patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms and creating space at hospitals for the more severe cases.”

Construction is being managed by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) with support from USACE, FEMA, and the Illinois National Guard. Walsh Construction drove the estimated $15 million project. The buildout for this project will be funded by the federal government.

If you’re a healthcare worker looking to serve, please sign up at For health related questions about COVID-19, call the Illinois Department of Public Health hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email For all personal protective equipment (PPE) donations, email

Note: This is snapshot in time data captured at 10am on April 3, 2020. The numbers will change frequently as the state works to increase capacity and new patients need care:

Statewide Hospitalizations

Total hospital beds


Total beds open


Total beds used (i.e. hospitalizations)


Total ICU beds


ICU beds open


ICU beds used


COVID-19 patients in ICU

935 (representing 35% of ICU beds in use)

Total vents


Vents open


Vents used


Vents used by COVID-19 patients


Total COVID-19 patients in hospitals

(not ICU)


Percent of Hospital Beds Occupied by COVID-19 patients


Total COVID-19 patients in Hospital


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