CHICAGO — In a worst case scenario, Illinois would need more than 9,000 additional intensive care beds than available and some 4,000 more ventilators in the next two weeks, Gov. JB Pritzker warned Tuesday.

But officials expect measures to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 outbreak — including the stay at home order and the closures of schools and restaurants — will reduce those alarming projections and allow hospitals to keep pace.

But Pritzker made clear the state still needs to aggressively ramp up efforts to create more space in hospitals and get more ventilators for the sickest of COVID-19 patients. To do so, hotels and closed hospitals are being converted for use, and triage tents are going up outside hospitals around the state.

“We are on a war-time footing right now,” Pritzker said of efforts to fight for more supplies and more beds. “It is everywhere. No one is immune to this.”

Meanwhile, the number of cases in Illinois rose by 250 to 1,535 on Tuesday. Four more people have died, bringing the total in the state to 16.

Pritzker laid out the state’s “worst case scenario” modeling projections during his Tuesday briefing at the Thompson Center.

Without the preventative measures that have been taken to stop the spread of coronavirus, the state would have been short 28,000 non-intensive care beds and 9,400 ICU beds within two weeks, according to projections.

“That’s untenable,” Pritzker said.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said all of the measures taken to separate people from each other are changing the model in real time, but officials did not offer updated projections on what will happen in Illinois based on the new measures.

“The measures that we institute now, the measures that have been instituted by the governor … all of those are actually changing, hopefully, the trajectory,” Ezike said. “Every day the actual curve is actually changing.”

The state currently has 26,000 non-ICU beds, half of which are available. It has 2,600 adult ICU beds, 1,000 of which are available, Pritzker said.

“Those numbers are fairly standard, but we know they will not stay that way,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state has 2,200 ventilators, with 1,600 available.

But under the worst case projections, the state would be short 4,100 ventilators in two weeks, Pritzker said.

The governor asked President Donald Trump for more ventilators during a call on Monday, and Pritzker said he heard from the White House later that 300 more ventilators are coming along with 300,000 N95 masks.

“This is the reality: There is a finite supply of critical resources around the world right now” and governors and countries are trying to get them, he said.

“We need the full might of the federal government to obtain and allocate things like ventilators and” personal protective equipment.

To create more hospital capacity, Pritzker said Illinois is taking the drastic move of re-opening closed hospitals around the state and prepping them for non-COVID-19 cases. That will allow existing hospitals to become COVID-19-only centers.

Hotels would also be converted into hospitals. Pritzker said the state is in discussion with other facilities that could be used as hospitals, as well.

Existing hospitals have already been expanding coronavirus capacity within their buildings and adding triage tents outside to assess new cases.

Of the 200 hospitals in the state, 66 now have triage tents built outside. Another 26 are building them now, Pritzker said.

Omar Lateef, CEO of Rush University Medical Center, said health cares workers at that hospital and others in Chicago are working “around the clock … to help our community get through this.”

Rush and other hospitals must be ready for a “major surge,” he said. The major limitations they face are beds, supplies and staff — and he noted officials have seen health care workers get sick, with other hospitals seeing “an entire workforce … getting cut in half in a two- or one-day period.”

To help the health care workforce, other Chicagoans can do things like practice social distancing, stay home and wash their hands.

“Now is not the time to abandon the only measures we know will help protect us. … We are in a city where COVID-19 is actively spreading in our neighborhoods today,” Lateef said. “Here’s the truth: In just about any scenario in the future, the situation gets worse before it gets better for our city and our community.”


Coronavirus can be deadly, but the vast majority of cases have been mild. Those most at risk from the virus are people who are elderly or who have underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of coronavirus can appear two to 14 days after a person has been exposed to the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control. People with no symptoms may have the virus and spread it to others.

The virus spreads between people through coughing and sneezing, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The most common symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

People have also experienced body aches, nasal congestion, runny nose and sore throat, according to Harvard Medical School.

If you or someone else has difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, become confused, cannot be roused or develop a bluish face or lips, get immediate medical attention, according to the CDC.

How To Protect Yourself

The CDC only recommends those are already sick wear facemasks because they help you avoid spreading the virus.

Here’s what you can actually do to prevent getting ill:

  • The CDC and other officials have said people should wash their hands often, including before, during and after eating; after using the bathroom; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    The CDC has a guide here for how to properly wash your hands. Remember: Wash with soap and water, scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently, like cellphones and light switches. Here are tips from the CDC.
  • Stay home when you’re sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough with a tissue, throw it out immediately after using it, according to the CDC.

What To Do If You Think You’re Sick

Even if you’re not showing symptoms, the Chicago Department of Public Health recommends people coming from high-risk countries (here’s a CDC list) self-quarantine for 14 days after returning home.

If you do have symptoms of coronavirus, contact your primary doctor or a health care facility before going in. Explain your symptoms and tell them if you’ve come into close contact with anyone with coronavirus or traveled to an area where COVID-19 is widespread (here’s a CDC list) within the last 14 days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

From there, the experts will work with your local health department to determine what to do and if you need to be tested for coronavirus, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

And, of course, if you think you’re sick with coronavirus, don’t risk exposing other people to the virus. Anyone who feels unwell has been ordered to stay home or risk getting a $500 fine.

Those with questions and concerns about coronavirus can call the Illinois Department of Public Health at 800-889-3931.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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