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Rush University Medical Center Ready To Use Welcome Center As Makeshift ER If COVID-19 Cases Surge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Illinois hospitals are bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients in the coming days, as the White House expects Cook County to become a hot spot for the new coronavirus.

CBS 2's Mugo Odigwe explains what Rush University Medical Center is already doing to prepare for an influx of cases. The hospital is preparing to treat at least 40,000 infected patients.

Activated and prepared for the worst, yet hoping for the best. That's what folks here at Rush are doing; redesigning the hospital, in case they see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

"Now we're at the point of the epidemic where we anticipate, based on the analytics by our analytics team, we might start seeing a surge of patients that are now getting sick," said Dr. Dino Rumoro, chair of the department of emergency medicine at Rush.

The hospital is expecting a possible rise in cases in Chicago next week. Hospital beds now fill its main welcome center. The makeshift emergency room is for patients who do not test positive for coronavirus. Treating those patients there leaves room in the traditional ER to treat those with COVID-19.

Oxygen and power sources are hidden in the columns of the welcoming center, because Rush's building was designed to turn its waiting rooms into treatment centers. The area won't open unless they need the extra space.

"It looked like, at one point, we were on a similar trajectory as New York. Over the last couple days, again, we've been cautiously optimistic that maybe we we will avoid that scenario, but we're not taking our foot off the gas pedal. That's why we're opening up spaces like this," Rumoro said.

Doctors at Rush said emergency room visits are slightly down right now. It looks like social distancing is working, but they want to be prepared if that changes.

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