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As It Scales Back From COVID-19 Treatment Center, McCormick Place Could Begin Holding Conventions In July, Officials Say

CHICAGO (CBS) – McCormick Place, the convention center-turned COVID-19 treatment facility, could be back to hosting trade shows as early as July. Plans are in place now to begin removing most of the treatment beds.

A McCormick Place spokesperson tells CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey convention planners are hopeful that shows will take place then, given the progress made so far in combating the virus. This news comes after millions of dollars in losses due to lost trade show business because of COVID-19 shutdowns.

The massive International Manufacturing and Technology Show (or IMTS) has been held in Chicago since 1947. Hosted every two years, attendees fill all four buildings of McCormick Place, and the event boasts an attendance of little over 130,000 people. There is hope that it will be held in September.

"At this moment, yes we are moving forward and we're making plans to help us rebuild the U.S. supply chain," said Peter Eelman, vice president of the Association for Manufacturing Technology.

Eelman helps lead the Association for Manufacturing Technology, the group that owns and runs IMTS. He says the 2020 trade show is still set for September, even though the space currently is an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients originally slated for 3,000 beds.

McCormick's Hall B represents a new model of care for crises like the coronavirus pandemic. It's now cut back to 1,000 beds due to a flattening curve of new cases. Eelman says they've been in close contact with McCormick Place and were recently told that organizers were planning to move the medical equipment out by June for shows to start up again in July.

On Friday, McCormick Place confirmed that the lease for the COVID-19 facility goes through the end of June and there are several July events that have not been canceled. They're hopeful that the shows will go on, but a spokesperson said it's too early to speak to specifics regarding public health measures.

The Association of Manufacturing Technology is hopeful, too. Many of their members are responsible for supplying the personal protective equipment used to fight the virus.

"We are respectful of the situation," Eelman said. "We are at this moment kind of awaiting and seeing and anticipating some updates from the mayor and the governor as to how to proceed. "

As of last week, there were fewer than a dozen COVID-19 patients being treated here at McCormick Place. On Friday, a city spokesperson declined to give us a specific number and said timing for the facility move-out will be based on community need.

On Friday afternoon Mayor Lightfoot and Gov. Pritzker issued the following joint statement:

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City and State have collaborated on a robust forward-looking, data driven response that preserves the health, safety and well-being of all residents. The McCormick Place Alternate Care Facility was originally developed out of an abundance of caution and based on data projections of over 40,000 hospitalizations in matter of weeks, and the facility was meant to relieve that anticipated pressure on our local healthcare systems."

"Today, we are pleased to report that the curve is flattening, and our local hospitals and healthcare systems continue to operate with capacity, therefore, the McCormick Place ACF will stop operating in its clinical needs testing phase. All patients currently receiving care at McCormick will continue to receive outstanding medical care for the duration of their illness and plans for deconstruction are currently underway. The unit with the negative pressure tents will remain assembled to continue upholding the facility's original mission, as the City and State monitor hospital capacity when elective surgeries begin again."

"We thank all our dedicated partners for their hard work and partnership in creating one of the nation's best operating and largest Alternate Care Facilities. 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."

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