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Left: Pictured from left to right, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot; Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker; U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth; and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy (far right) attend a turnover ceremony at McCormick Place in Chicago, April 17. Three halls at the McCormick Place convention center were converted into a 3,000-patient ACF. Below Left: Navy Lt. Miranda L. Bassett, a construction manager for the Naval Support Activity Crane Public Works Department, deployed to Chicago to help USACE’s Chicago District convert spaces into ACFs. Bassett worked on the Westlake ACF in Melrose Park, Illinois, which was completed by USACE on April 25.

Construction began April 8, was completed April 18, and was turned over to the Wisconsin Department of Administration to accommodate the overflow of low-acuity COVID-19 patients from Wisconsin hospitals and other health care facilities.



CONVENTION CENTER TO HEALTH CARE 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. In less than a week, the first hall of the convention center was converted into a 500-patient ACF and turned over April 3. At the turnover, the commanding general for the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, Maj. Gen. Robert F. Whittle, spoke on how USACE rapidly came up with a plan to provide a solution to create extra patient space capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We knew that across America, at any given time, about two-thirds of all hospital beds are full, and about two-thirds of all ICU beds are full,” said Whittle. “So, if a virus is coming,” he continued, “it can be expected that the remaining one-third of hospital beds that are typically empty and the remaining one-third of ICU beds that are typically empty may be filled.” In Wisconsin, an ACF was also materializing quickly. Unlike McCormick, this ACF was built on site, whereas much of the McCormick ACF was prefabricated. Working under the direction of the Chicago District, USACE’s contractor, Gilbane, Inc., built a fully functioning ACF, with hardline oxygen, hard-stand showers, restrooms, and patient areas in nine days at the Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis. 26

In Blue Island, Elgin, and Melrose Park, Illinois, the Chicago District constructed ACFs from shuttered hospitals, converting numerous spaces, such as the emergency department, labor and delivery, and ICU and hospital office space, into patient bed areas. Work began March 29 at Metro South Medical Center in Blue Island and Sherman Hospital in Elgin as USACE led teams of contractors and officials through both of the shuttered Chicago-area hospitals in preparation for construction. These projects were completed on April 23. The Metro South Medical Center served the Blue Island community for more than a century before closing its doors in 2019. USACE’s contractor, Clark Construction, led a design-build team in revitalizing the once-dormant facility into a fully operational ACF. Sherman Hospital in Elgin had been shuttered for a decade. USACE’s contractor, Turner Construction, also led a design-build team in revitalizing the once-dormant facility into a fully operational ACF. Work began at Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park on April 5 and was completed on April 25. Working under the direction of the Chicago District, Bulley & Andrews served as the design-build contractor that led the construction effort to convert the former hospital.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY HOUSE OF CORRECTION Correctional facilities across the United States had become hotbeds for COVID-19. It was determined that designated space for COVID-19 patients would be needed. Through FEMA, USACE was asked to survey the Lotter Building at the Milwaukee County House of Corrections in Franklin, Wisconsin. The Chicago District surveyed this site on April 18 and determined it viable as a potential ACF and received the order from FEMA April 30 to construct 120 patient-care spaces. USACE awarded a contract to Gilbane, Inc., to retrofit this space into an ACF. Construction began May 4, with a required delivery date of May 29; the Chicago District delivered this project after 16 days of construction. During emergencies, USACE is the federal government’s first public works and engineering support agency. Its extensive work in building medical facilities for its military stakeholders makes it uniquely qualified to tackle this engineering challenge. n

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Building Strong, Serving the Nation and the Armed Forces, 2020-2021  

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