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Speaking alongside construction workers and leaders with the Illinois National Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers at McCormick Place today, Gov. Pritzker reported 1,209 additional confirmed cases or COVID-19, with 53 additional deaths, bringing the state's total death toll to 210. There are confirmed cases in 64 counties.

Nick Turkal, executive director of this new alternate care facility at McCormick Place, explained that the facility is not a hospital, and it will focus on "mild to moderate" cases of COVID-19 referred there by hospitals, with protocols in place to adjust the facility's mission should it become necessary. Turkal had been a co-CEO of Advocate Aurora Health Care until last July.

The governor praised the quick work done to convert McCormick Place for use in the event of a surge of COVID-19 cases. He said 500 beds have been constructed and the necessary staff recruited to operate them, and that the full capacity and staff necessary to operate 3,000 beds will roll out in the coming weeks. Pritzker also announced the site of a fourth alternate care facility to be located in Springfield at the former Vibra Hospital.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said more than 400 hotel rooms have been made available to health care workers for the purposes of staying the night without returning home and risking the possibility of infecting their family members.

Turkal, the hospital executive, explained the role the McCormick Place facility would play. As hospitals fill up with COVID patients, there will be those sick almost to the point of needing intensive care. Those patients need to stay at the hospital. But there will be patients who might need minimal oxygen assistance and less serious care. Those would be the patients that would likely go to an alternative site like the McCormick Place field hospital.

Turkal said the facility would not be an emergency room, patients would not go directly to the McCormick Place facility and that they would work with hospital discharge procedures to identify who could leave hospitals to come to McCormick Place.

The governor was asked if it was possible that no one might end up in the massive field hospital.

“If no patient ends up at McCormick Place then we will have done our job … to bend this curve. I pray that that’s an accurate assessment.”

Pritzker also said that he’s been looking into research about whether the public should wear masks and now believes that masks seem like a common-sense approach.

“Stay home. But when you must go out, wearing something to cover your face is a good idea … just something to cover your nose and mouth as a courtesy to those around you.”