U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY PATRICK BRAY
GRE AT L AKES AND OHIO RIVER DIVISION
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, looks out over COVID-19 patient spaces at McCormick Place in Chicago April 1, 2020. Work began at McCormick Place, through Walsh Construction, March 29, to convert three halls in the convention center into a 3,000-patient ACF and was fully completed April 23, with some patient spaces being turned over in phases.
CHICAGO DISTRICT’S “OPERATION ENDURING HEALTH” BY PATRICK BR AY, Chicago District
he U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Chicago District, at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the states of Illinois and Wisconsin, mobilized to plan and construct alternate care facilities (ACFs) in Chicagoland and the Milwaukee area as part of the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ACFs provide additional patient space capacity for non-acute COVID-19 cases to help alleviate surges on area hospitals, so that the more critical patients can receive the care they need. In all, the Chicago District built ACFs to accommodate 5,000 patient spaces throughout Chicagoland and the Milwaukee area in April and May 2020. “The collaboration on site has been like nothing I have seen in 26 years of military service. From day one, everyone brought their A-team, everyone brought an attitude focused on delivering the
outcome, and really focused on delivering the mission,” said Col. Aaron W. Reisinger, commander and district engineer of the Chicago District from 2017 to 2020. “Everyone worked hand in hand to overcome challenges and problems that otherwise would have taken weeks, if not months, to solve.” USACE mobilized March 22 under threat that Chicago could become a “hot spot” for COVID-19. Not long afterward, the state of Wisconsin and Milwaukee officials also requested through FEMA construction of ACFs dedicated to the treatment of COVID-19 patients. USACE constructed ACFs at McCormick Place in Chicago, the State Fair Park in West Allis, Wisconsin, and three shuttered hospitals in Cook County, Illinois – Metro South in Blue Island, Westlake in Melrose Park, and the former Sherman Hospital in Elgin – all to ensure that no patients would have to be turned away due to shortages of bed space. 25