Chicago spent nearly $120 million on 4 coronavirus facilities to treat a total of 38 patients

Just 1.3% of beds at major convention center were ever occupied.

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Emergency COVID-19 facilities at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center
Emergency COVID-19 facilities at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center
(NurPhoto/Getty)
Updated: August 14, 2020 - 3:34pm

The city of Chicago invested nearly $120 million on four separate emergency coronavirus facilities in the spring that ended up treating a total of 38 patients, bringing the effective price tag of the massive project to over $3 million per patient. 

Municipal officials spent $66 million on the rapid construction of a 2,750-bed makeshift facility in the city's McCormick Place Convention Center in April, as well as an additional $50 million preparing three previously shuttered hospitals in the nearby districts of Elgin, Blue Island and Melrose. 

The McCormick Place field hospital was the only one of the four that welcomed any patients, with just under 40 total being placed there — roughly 1.3% of the facility's total occupancy. 

The multimillion-dollar projects were an "insurance policy” at a time of "immense emergency," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's office told the Chicago Sun-Times this week. One of Lightfoot's deputy mayors, Samir Mayekar, told the paper he was "incredibly proud" of the projects, and that the money invested in them was "not spent in vain." He also claimed that the medical equipment mobilized for the facilities "is being stored and can be redeployed if needed," the paper said.

The facilities came together around the time of the height of the pandemic in the U.S. in late April, when daily deaths peaked at around 2,700 per day. At the time, officials across the U.S. were concerned that waves of deaths could overwhelm local hospitals and lead to collapsed healthcare systems, leading many municipalities to construct makeshift emergency facilities in anticipation. 

As in Chicago, earlier in the pandemic numerous field hospitals in cities such as Richmond, Va., Seattle and New York saw very little to no patients at all. 

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