Sneeze guards, toilet paper, and visits from lonely seniors: Running a post office during the pandemic

In rain, heat, or dark, postal work is an essential service that’s playing an important role as regions in the US and around the world go on lockdown to try to slow the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. People across the US are relying on the USPS — and to meet their needs, post office workers are taking big risks.

While more and more people are being instructed to stay home and most nonessential retail stores have closed, post offices have remained open and mail carriers are continuing to deliver mail and packages to residences. Online sales of consumer packaged goods rose 91 percent year over year in the US during the week ending March 14, according to Nielsen, and that data doesn’t even capture what’s happened as more US metro areas have issued stay-at-home orders in the weeks since.

While the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said there is currently no evidence of the virus spreading through the mail or packages, at least one study has found that the novel coronavirus can remain on surfaces such as cardboard and plastic for at least a day, and sometimes more. Translation: This is a fast-moving situation that carries a lot of unknowns for anyone receiving mail and packages, but also for those handling them. What we do know is that leaving your house at all and interacting with people in post offices or mail sorting centers and on door-to-door postal carrier routes can increase the risk of contracting the virus. On top of this, some postal workers have said they’ve been pressured to work despite having coronavirus symptoms.


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