Former NYPD Commissioner O’Neill Returning To City To Help In COVID-19 Fight

WCBS 880 Newsroom
April 01, 2020 - 4:35 pm

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday announced former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill would be returning to the city to serve as a COVID-19 senior advisor.

The announcement came as the city confirmed over 41,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 1,100 deaths in the five boroughs.

De Blasio once again put out a plea to President Donald Trump to send in military medical reinforcements before it’s too late.

He also announced O’Neill would be coming on to oversee the supply and distribution of personal protective and medical equipment within city hospitals.

According to a press release, O’Neill will “create, operationalize and manage a supply inspection regime within the hospitals to ensure the rapid turnaround of new supplies and verify each hospital is pushing needed equipment to frontline health care workers.”

The former NYPD commissioner is taking on the volunteer role while continuing to work at Visa, where he serves as a senior vice president and head of global security.

“Jimmy will leverage his extensive management experience and knowledge of the City to ensure that our healthcare workers on the front lines have the supplies they need to save New Yorker’s lives. I’d also like to thank Visa CEO Al Kelly for allowing Jimmy to help his beloved hometown in our hour of need,” Mayor de Blasio said.

He called O’Neill “one of the finest public servants our city has ever known.”

The former police commissioner seemed eager to take on the new role.

“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and Visa CEO Al Kelly for this opportunity to help serve this great city once again and support the heroes on the front lines of this pandemic,” he said. “While the toughest days of this crisis lie ahead, New Yorkers are resilient and will get through this by coming together.”

New York City, according to the mayor’s office, has already distributed over 8 million face masks, over 2 million N95 masks, 105,880 gowns, and 1,956,940 surgical gloves to hospitals in the five boroughs.

The city is also distributing all 2,500 ventilators that have been sent by the federal government.

However, the mayor still calls this Sunday "a demarcation line." It's is when he expects a crest in the wave in the number of coronavirus cases.

Map: Percentage Of Coronavirus Cases In NYC By Zip Code

He is demanding the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff send in medical reinforcements from the active military and the reserves.

"I said specifically 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists, 150 doctors and I said we need as many as possible by Sunday, April 5th and we need to know that any others are going to come shortly thereafter," de Blasio said Tuesday.

He also wants to dramatically expand ICU capability.

"The goal is take the 20,000 or so that we started with in the month of March with normal compliment hospital beds in this city that were staffed with professionals all over our hospital system. Those 20,000 are increasingly going to become all ICU beds over the month of April. That's what our hospitals will be for more and more, taking on the toughest COVID cases at the frontline," the mayor said.

In an interview with anchor Steve Scott, retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said brining in the military would not be a heavy lift.

"I would say that most American soldiers would love the idea of being visible, feeling like they are contributing and being part of the solution," McChrystal said.

The city has received some reinforcements.

FEMA is bringing in 250 more ambulances and approximately 500 more EMTs and paramedics to New York City, which has seen a 50% increase in emergency calls during the crisis.

Emergency field hospitals have been set up across the city in addition to the arrival of the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort.

The federal government has also provided 2,500 ventilators, but de Blasio said the city needs 15,000 total.

"We are racing against time right now," said de Blasio, calling on oral surgeons, plastic surgeons, and veterinarians to contribute ventilators to the effort. "We need it now, it should not be sitting there doing nothing, this is a war effort, everyone needs to contribute, you'll get it back when this battle is over." 

Social distancing appears to be having a positive affect, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the closure of  all city playgrounds.

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