New York, NY – Although COVID-19 infection rates are down, the pandemic’s impact goes far beyond statistics and hospitalizations. Nevertheless, the city is looking to fully reopen in the near future. But how? Reopening will not be as simple as flipping a light switch. How can it be? 

First, it is important to clarify the task at hand. We have to put our city back together again. We have to reorganize our social interactions and solidify plans to avoid another wave of COVID-19. Secondly, we have to reopen schools and be prepared to safely accommodate both students and school staff. But how?

Since May is Mental Health Month, perhaps now is a good time to reconsider post-COVID stressors and other associated challenges. It is important to confront the many traumatic events that have taken place this past year. Remote learning and teleworking have changed the family dynamic. Depression rates and mental health challenges have spiked during the lockdown — especially amongst teens. 

It is important to understand that situational anxiety and depression will not necessarily end simply because the city has chosen to resume business. 

This means supportive services and resources must be part of our new work culture. The same goes for education and childcare programs. With regards to students returning to school, what kind of support programs will be in place? Will there be opportunities for teachers to receive extra mental health first aid training before the doors reopen? How do we successfully rebuild childcare services for double income homes?

Next, has anyone considered the emotional or post-COVID effects of the virus? This includes both newly shaped phobias and social anxieties, as well as clinical and situational challenges. 

When asked about returning to her Liberty Plaza office, multinational insurance professional and head of business resources Barbara C. said, “It’s time. More people are going through challenges now, which almost normalizes the challenges people face with mental health. I think that’s great, but we need a good plan to get back up and running. We need to be proactive — not reactive.”

Even if the decision to reopen New York City is as simple as flipping a switch, the emotional aftermath is something that needs to be addressed. As both a columnist and  proponent for the city’s reopening, I agree. We need a good plan to get back up and running. We need to be proactive — not reactive.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach and Peer & Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at


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