$18M in construction is done for COVID-19 facility in Elgin, but opening's on hold
The construction work to create an alternate care facility for COVID-19 patients in Elgin is done, but the opening has been delayed because there is no need for additional hospital beds at the moment, officials said.
The $18 million project at the vacant former Sherman Hospital campus at 901 Center St. was expected to be done by Friday, and it finished on schedule, Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said.
The plan had been for the Illinois Army National Guard to furnish the hospital this weekend, but that was put on hold, Kaptain said, citing a conversation Thursday night with Illinois Emergency Management Agency officials.
"This is a good thing," Kaptain said.
"There will be people who say, 'Boy, that's stupid,'" Kaptain added, referring to critics of preventive measures regarding the coronavirus pandemic. "But it was completed and it's ready to go if needed. I think it was a wise decision to do that in preparation."
The Elgin facility, intended for non-acute COVID-19 patients, was turned over Thursday to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said Army Corps of Engineers Col. Aaron Reisinger.
Reisinger directed all other questions to state officials, who didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
The construction was done by general contractor Turner Construction and was overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Work at the building, which held physician's offices until 2018, took place 24 hours a day, seven days a week starting late last month. It included sealing doors and windows, repairing heating, air conditioning and electrical IT systems, and more. The Army Corps said the facility would have 275 beds; state officials said there was a potential for 283 beds.
Elgin Fire Chief Robb Cagann said the inside of the building looks like an emergency room with individual cubicles enclosed by three sides of drywall and front curtains for privacy.
"It's very simplistic for the type of patients that they are going to be housing," he said.
Cagann, who also took part in the phone call Thursday, said IEMA officials stated they will furnish the facility when data indicates there is a regional need.
Cagann said he asked what the benchmark will be, but no specifics were given.
Statewide, there were 904 intensive care unit beds available, out of 3,155 beds, and 1,928 ventilators available, out of 3,266, according to Wednesday data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
In the Northwest suburban region, there were 139 ICU beds available out of 366, and 190 ventilators available out of 325.
Cagann said the state followed emergency and crisis management standards by acting proactively and getting the Elgin facility ready. "It should be looked at as a positive that our regional situation is not as dire as maybe was anticipated," he said. "The state is still talking about the peak (of infections) being in mid-May. There may very well be a need for this facility, whether it be in this wave or any future anticipated wave that they are talking about."
The Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District also was assigned to work on rehabilitation of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island and Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park.
Both projects also were done on schedule by Friday, Reisinger said.