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Coronavirus: U.S. Postal Service workers say more can be done to keep them safe

The U.S. Postal Service told News 8 it is not requiring employees to wear a mask, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.

SAN DIEGO — A San Diego letter carrier criticized the U.S. Postal Service’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak after a second employee tested positive for the illness.

The postal service said the infected employee worked at the Grantville Post Office and that the risk to others is low.

Another postal worker, who did not want to be identified because they feared retaliation, said they attempted to raise concerns with management and the union that represents workers.

“The six-foot social distancing policy -- they tell us to do it but based on our job we do not do it. We’re in very close proximity to each other every morning and afternoon,” the employee told News 8.

The carrier said he was provided gloves and cleaning supplies, but not a mask, so he initially used his own. This week, the agency began providing them as an option.

The U.S. Postal Service told News 8 it is not requiring employees to wear a mask, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Both the CDC and WHO have repeatedly said there is no evidence of coronavirus spreading through the mail.

“We believe the risk is low for employees who work at the Grantville Post Office, but we will keep our employees apprised as new information and guidance becomes available,” said the U.S. Postal Service in an emailed statement.

The postal service has strived to maintain regular mail delivery during the crisis since it is considered an essential service. However, one worker suggested cutting back advertisements that require them to stop at every house.

“My shift could be cut in half if we only deliver the essentials – packages, checks, medical information, documents -- that’s fine, I understand, but the majority is just junk mail,” said the employee.

Advertisements make up a significant portion of revenue for the U.S. Postal Service, which expects to run out of funding by June.

The carrier, and others nationwide, have repeatedly asked the public to help maintain social distancing during deliveries, despite temptation to say hello to a familiar face.

“Starting last week, a lot more people are waiting for me at their door and it really frustrates me because I’ll tell them ‘go back inside, I’ll put it in your mailbox,” said the employee. “We’re not supposed to be interacting. You’re not supposed to be waiting by your door. That’s the whole point of this quarantine.” 

Postal workers have organized a petition asking for hazard pay

Full U.S. Postal Service Statement Below:

"Throughout the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, the United States Postal Service has continued to fulfill its critical mission to bind the nation together by providing an essential service to our nation. Postal Service employees are working hard across the country to ensure we are there for our customers every day, serving as a lifeline for millions of people.

As we continue to perform our vital service for America’s people and businesses, the safety and wellness of our employees remains of primary importance to the Postal Service. We continue to follow the strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we have adjusted our practices based upon their evolving guidance.

CDC now recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

We are strongly encouraging all of our employees to follow CDC’s recommendation, but we are not making face coverings mandatory consistent with CDC guidance. We also are continuing to provide masks if employees request them, and are also allowing employees to use their own personal cloth face coverings while on duty if they prefer.

We also are encouraging our employees to adhere to social distancing guidelines (6 feet) whenever possible while on delivery routes, at retail counters, and within the postal workplace: in plants, on docks, and in lunch and break rooms.

In addition to social distancing, we continue to follow all of the other recommended CDC prevention methods. Importantly, the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html), the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses), as well as the Surgeon General have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.

Specifically, according to the World Health Organization, “the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.” And according to the CDC, “in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets.” Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods."

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