53 additional deaths, 1,209 more Illinois COVID-19 cases; 500 beds ready to go at McCormick Place
As the first 500 beds of a makeshift alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients came online Friday at McCormick Place in Chicago, state health officials announced one of the largest spikes in coronavirus deaths and infections the state has seen since the outbreak began.
An additional 53 residents have died from the infection, bringing the total number of coronavirus fatalities in Illinois to 210.
"That is 210 fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and children who are no longer with us," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.
He also urged everyone in the state to start wearing masks or cloths to cover their mouths and noses when they are in public, saying the practice could save someone's life.
Another 1,209 cases were diagnosed, bringing the state's total infected count to 8,904, most of whom live in Chicago and suburban Cook County, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Among those who died in the past day were 33 Cook County residents, 11 from Lake County, three from Will County, two from DuPage County and one from Kane County. Elsewhere in the state, two women from Kankakee County and a woman from Christian County were among those who died.
Infected patients are now in 64 of the state's 102 counties, IDPH officials said.
The age range of those infected runs from less than a year old to more than 100 years old.
Pritzker, along with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, toured the McCormick Place site that will ultimately hold 3,000 beds for patients who have coronavirus symptoms but do not require intensive care.
Dr. Nick Turkal, former CEO of Advocate Aurora Health, was tapped to be the facility's executive director. He praised the work of builders overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Illinois National Guard.
He noted the facility will not serve as a hospital but as an overflow site for Chicago-area hospitals. He said people who might be sick should not come to McCormick Place directly to seek treatment.
"This is a place that will relieve the strain on our local hospitals," he said. "We are only accepting patients from our hospital partners. It's really important for the public to know that."
There have been concerns that the eventual surge of patients expected in the coming weeks might overwhelm the state's health care system, which currently has less than 41% of regular beds available for new patients and less than 30% of the state's intensive care unit beds open.
Pritzker said that in addition to plans to reopen three shuttered hospitals in the suburbs to take hospital overflow of patients with mild or moderate symptoms by the end of the month, the state is reopening a fourth hospital in Springfield to handle cases in that area. The three suburban hospitals are the former Sherman Hospital building in Elgin, the shuttered MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island and the former West Lake Hospital in Melrose Park.
Pritzker and Lightfoot both did not mince words when asked during the news conference to address statements made by President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Kushner, an adviser to the president, said a national stockpile of personal protective equipment and other health care supplies is "supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use."
Lightfoot said local governments shouldn't have to "beg" the federal government for supplies. She also called the federal government's response to the outbreak a "failure."
"I don't know if Jared Kushner knows this, but it's called the United States of America," Pritzker said. "And the federal stockpile is meant to help states. Jared Kushner either doesn't understand this issue or he doesn't understand what the federal government's role is supposed to be in a national emergency."