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Plan Could Turn McCormick Place Into Field Hospital Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The predictions are grim when it comes to the number of hospital beds available in in Chicago compared the number of people who made need them as the COVID-19 numbers rise.

The CBS 2 Investigators have uncovered a plan to use McCormick Place and three shuttered hospitals to fill the gap.

McCormick Place could house 2,000 patients and those shuttered hospitals another 1,000.

With the future need for more ICU beds and isolation rooms growing by the day in Illinois and around the country, officials have to get creative. In Illinois, CBS 2 has now confirmed the state has identified as many as 7,000 more available beds; from Chicago to the now-shuttered Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, and even as far south as Carbondale.

And indeed, even McCormick Place has been examined. Sources said they could fit as many as 2,000 beds at the empty convention center.

Those sites were thoroughly examined and determined to be suitable to be converted into places for patients with coronavirus.

About 40 potential sites were reviewed by the Air National Guard.

Air National Guard Major Dr. Josh Carpenter: "The team believes that we've offered the ability to expand services to approximately 6,500 to 7,000 patients all around the Illinois state."

Savini: "So from the site surveys you did, you feel like you may have found as many as 7,000 beds."

Carpenter: "Yes. That was within about four days."

Savini: "And those are using multiple facilities."

Carpenter: "Correct, throughout the state."

Savini: "How quick can you turn a facility around?"

Carpenter: "It varies. I mean, you know, there's some that may take a week or two, there's some that would be ready to turn around within about 36 hours."

Carpenter said the additional beds will help, but he fears even the extra 7,000 beds will not be enough. About 5,500 of those beds were identified in the Chicago area.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers will be in charge of getting all the necessary medical equipment moved to the sites.

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