CHICAGO (CBS) — The first 500 beds arrived at McCormick Place Monday – in phase one of a potentially life-saving project providing thousands of beds for spillover patients who test positive for COVID-19.

Security told CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey the campus was shut down for the installation of the beds.

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There will ultimately be a total of 3,000 beds for patients at McCormick Place, if and when area hospitals need them.

“If we never have to go beyond our existing facilities, we will all be extremely happy,” said Gov. JB Pritzker.

At his daily coronavirus news conference Monday, Pritzker said the alternate care facility at McCormick Place is not meant to replace hospitals.

But it will be there for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms who don’t require intensive care.

“This is an evolving situation and if our experts determine down the line that McCormick Place should be shifted to a different set of criteria, we will shift our mission to follow the medical experts’ best advice,” the governor said.

We watched the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hard at work at McCormick Place, as a range of different building contractors reported to Gate 4 ready to turn a portion of this convention space into an alternative medical facility.

The Army Corps’ tactical operations vehicle was parked outside the convention center late Monday.

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The project is thanks to $15 million in federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

So who is going to staff the hospital? The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said it is working with partners at medical centers that can spare staff members and is requesting volunteers with medical experience.

Any health care workers looking to serve may sign up at or

Last week, Gov. Pritzker activated about 115 additional Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen. Some of them will be helping to build this facility at McCormick Place.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the surge capacity at McCormick Place and two other sites fits right into their emergency plan.

“(It) includes quarantine and isolation space, beds for vulnerable populations, and supplies for health care workers,” Lightfoot said.

Pritzker said the state also is working with the Army Corps of Engineers on other alternate COVID-19 treatment sites at the former Advocate Sherman Hospital campus in Elgin and at the former MetroSouth Medical Center building in Blue Island.

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McCormick Place is expected to receive another shipment of 500 beds next week.

Megan Hickey