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How the McCormick Place hospital quickly came together as the pandemic raged

Friday, Aug 14, 2020

* The Sun-Times takes a close look at how the McCormick Place was stood up in a big hurry with mostly federal funds. Remember the times we were in then, with New York City setting up tent hospitals to handle the overflow and patients were waiting for days to be admitted

Taxpayers spent nearly $66 million fashioning McCormick Place into an emergency coronavirus hospital with 2,750 beds this past spring amid fears that COVID-19 patients would overwhelm hospitals in the Chicago area.

Those fears turned out to be unfounded. Just 38 patients were transferred to the sprawling convention center — meaning taxpayers’ cost for the makeshift hospital turned out to be more than $1.7 million per patient, on average.

But top aides to Mayor Lori Lightfoot say her decision to initiate the project with the federal government and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority was an important “insurance policy” at a time of “immense emergency.”

“It’s something I’m incredibly proud of,” says Samir Mayekar, Lightfoot’s deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development who says the money was “not spent in vain.”

He also notes that the medical equipment is being stored and can be redeployed if needed.

Aside from the headline and the lede, the story is very informative, so click here to read it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

26 Comments
  1. - A Guy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:26 am:

    It was worthwhile even for the reason that we know it can be done. No regrets.


  2. - Todd - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:26 am:

    I have little good to say about the Mayor and how she has handled the pandemic, riots and looters.

    But give props where due. She made the right call in the face of an unknown pandemic.


  3. - JoanP - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:27 am:

    I’m glad we didn’t need it, but I’m glad we were prepared.


  4. - Father Ted - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:38 am:

    The consequences for being overly prepared for something will never be as severe as being underprepared.


  5. - Lewie - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:39 am:

    Being prepared was the right call.
    Of all the billions and billions of dollars spent by federal and state government on Coronavirus issues, to pick on this particular item seems short-sighted. Insurance is not cheap, but is often worth the cost.


  6. - Keyrock - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:40 am:

    If attempts to slow a pandemic work, some people will say preparations were unnecessary. They were necessary.


  7. - OOO - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:45 am:

    This was an enormous waste of resources. Illinois was never going to be New York, but our officials presssed forward to spend millions on hospital capacity was never used. And, it’s probably a good thing it wasn’t. The set-up at McCormick Place would have been unsafe given all of the information that we’ve learned about the virus since then.

    The money could have been spent on an array of other things (PPE, testing, economic relief for citizens, food, etc.).

    And, to top it off, they couldn’t even handle the contractor selection process with integrity.

    Our. Leaders. Have. Failed.


  8. - Joe Bidenopolous - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:45 am:

    A few months ago, Fauci said something along the lines of, ‘if the measures being taken seem like an overreaction, then it’s being done right.’

    Being under-prepared is a disaster - one needs to look not further than the lack of a national strategy to know that. I’d rather be overprepared whenever possible


  9. - essentially working - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    It would be interesting to know whether anyone in that meeting said, “Hey, maybe let’s just build 500 and see how it goes? We can always build more?”


  10. - iggy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:50 am:

    send the bill to imperial college.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:51 am:

    The preparedness by the governor with activating McCormick Place is why I’m glad he’s in charge right now.


  12. - @misterjayem - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 10:56 am:

    “The money could have been spent on an array of other things (PPE, testing, economic relief for citizens, food, etc.).”

    Can you share a link that would show that the federal funds could have been used discretionarily for the things that you’ve listed?

    – MrJM


  13. - The Opinions Bureau - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:00 am:

    “This was an enormous waste of resources. Illinois was never going to be New York”

    Neither was Florida, Dennis.


  14. - truthteller - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:03 am:

    some one had to step up as Federal leadership vanished. Look at Florida, Texas, Georgia now


  15. - school board member - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:04 am:

    There was much preparation that didn’t cost extra because it wasn’t used such as state and schools working together so that schools could act as testing centers, hospitals, vaccine administration sites, etc.


  16. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:07 am:

    This was an awful lot of money to waste so a couple of politicians could stage a few press conferences.
    Sometimes it is a good idea to have a well thought set of priorities before spending $66 million dollars when hospitals are not being funded, a highly regarded medical center like Mercy Hospital located in an area where a Covid cases are high is closing, a town has to sue the State Health Department to enforce nursing home requirements, the lack of funding for minority medical vendors when we need all medical vendors on board to fight the virus and no real plan in place to fund hospitals in minority neighborhoods.
    More concerned about the priorities of Team Pritzker than the price of this boondoggle.


  17. - A Guy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:28 am:

    You pay for your Army and Army Corps every day. This was them at their best performing one of thousands of logistics miracles. Call it a “training mission” if it makes you feel better. I’m glad to know it can be done, along with so many other things.


  18. - Back to the Future - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:43 am:

    A Guy,
    I was kinda on the same page with you in that thought that the Army was building it too, but the article and other articles in that paper tell a different story.
    Glad we still have reporters that dig into what is happening.


  19. - Chicago Bars - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:45 am:

    Totally made sense to build it, besides New York there were the pictures of overloaded Italian hospitals that nobody wanted to see happen here at that moment in time.

    But sure hope some MBE/WBE subcontractors still got part of the emergency McPier hospital work.


  20. - Rich Miller - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 11:47 am:

    ===the Army was building it===

    Soldiers don’t build stuff outside of war zones. Contractors do that.


  21. - A Guy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:18 pm:

    ==Soldiers don’t build stuff outside of war zones. Contractors do that.==

    Who got the stuff there? Who managed it? Who do the contractors report to?
    The Greatest Logistics Operators in the world…The US Army.


  22. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:20 pm:

    I remember the refrigerated trucks parked at the morgue during the summer of 95. I like being overly prepared.


  23. - A Guy - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:21 pm:

    ==Contractors do that.==

    As do NFPs.


  24. - Candy Dogood - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:52 pm:

    Were there people complaining about building fall out shelters we didn’t need?


  25. - Glenn - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 1:12 pm:

    ==Candy Dogood - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 12:52 pm:==
    “Were there people complaining about building fall out shelters we didn’t need?”

    Or about the multi-trillion dollar hoard of thermonuclear weapons we didn’t need, and can’t be used?


  26. - Hippo - Friday, Aug 14, 20 @ 2:58 pm:

    Why did they take it down? As I understand it, we are not out of the woods yet. McPier is not open for business and won’t be for the foreseeable future. Taking it down is the waste.


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