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Slowing Spread Of COVID-19 Leads Pritzker To Scale Back Overflow Plans

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Members of the Illinois Air National Guard assemble medical equipment at the McCormick Place Convention Center in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago on April 8, 2020.

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he expects the coronavirus to peak soon.  While the state is far from out of the woods, there are indications the state’s hospitals might be able to handle the caseload. 

McCormick Place, the mammoth Chicago convention center, was converted to handle 3,000 beds for COVID-19 patients.  But that need has yet to materialize.  The governor Sunday announced only about 1,000 beds are now being planned for use. 

“We’re actually redeploying many of the people that were hired for the extra beds, the ones that we’re not going to build out,” he said. “Redeploying those personnel to other areas of need, including nursing homes and other facilities that we have across the state, where because of sickness, there may be a reduction of staffing.”

Pritzker has credited social distancing and other actions, such as the “stay-at-home” order for getting Illinois closer to “flattening the curve” when it comes to cases.  Pritzker will extend the order, with some modifications, until the end of May.

The latest numbers show 2,126 new cases as of Sunday, for a total of 43,903.  Sunday’s news conference listed 59 new deaths, raising the state total to 1,933.  The governor also mentioned there are 4,595 people in the hospital with COVID-19.  Of those, 1,267 are in ICUand 772 are on ventilators.

In Springfield, the now shuttered Vibra Hospital was being remodeled as an alternative site for patients if hospitals ran out of space.   Vibra had bed space for 50 people and was set to open next month.  Now, that might not happen.  

“We’re keeping at bay facilities like Vibra with the thought that we may need to spin those up at a later date.  but right now we don’t need to,” the governor said. 

Governor Wants Courts To Weigh In On His Authority

A southern Illinois State Representative has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to overturn Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order extension.  Darren Bailey, a Republican from Xenia,  represents an area that has seen fewer cases and deaths from the coronavirus.  

“We’re living under some interesting times — I understand that,” Bailey said during a press conference over Zoom. “Our district has done an amazing job of social distancing and living under these guidelines. However, things are different here and I’ve tried to express that.”

The case could wind up before the Illinois Supreme Court.   On Sunday, the governor was asked about it.  

“I think that the courts need to follow through on this. The obvious answer to this is that the governor has the authority to issue a disaster proclamation and to put in place executive orders that are all about saving lives,” Pritzker said. 

He added that Illinois has a precedent of governors declaring emergencies after events like floods.  Pritzker said those are often disasters that affect only a portion of the state, while COVID-19 is a threat to everyone.  

Sean Crawford is the News Director at NPR Illinois in Springfield.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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