Objective

Our objective was to assess the Postal Service’s response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak regarding the safety of its employees.

In March 2020, the president of the United States declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency; its impact to the nation’s health and safety has been unprecedented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 31, 2020, there were 4.5 million cases and 151,000 deaths in the U.S. Many states and communities shut down businesses, asked people to stay home, and prohibited gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. Even during the shutdowns, the Postal Service continued to deliver mail and packages to every address in the nation, every day.

To lead its pandemic response, the Postal Service created the COVID-19 Command Response Team at headquarters to ensure the agency followed directives and guidance from the CDC. The Postal Service implemented changes to slow the spread of the virus, manage and support affected employees, and ensure that recovered employees returned to work safely.

To slow the virus’s spread, the Postal Service required all employees to wear face coverings where a state or local mandate was in place and social distancing could not be achieved, requested customers to wear face coverings in all retail facilities, and established daily cleaning of the workroom floor and cleaning of frequently touched surfaces between tours. In addition, the Postal Service established a COVID-19 Supplies Command Center to monitor daily inventories in the field and identify facilities in need of essential supplies. This helped ensure millions of face coverings, gloves, and cleaning products were available to about 641,000 Postal Service employees working across 31,500 facilities. To identify employees with COVID-19 symptoms at work, the Postal Service also deployed a temperature-taking proof of concept test at four facilities in May 2020.

For employees who either contracted or were affected by the virus, the Postal Service allowed the use of liberal leave. It also established a Close Contact Tracing Program in April 2020 to outline safety protocols for identifying and quarantining employees who came into close contact with an infected person at work, as well as tracking employees with a positive COVID-19 test. The Postal Service’s nursing staff is responsible for conducting contact tracing to determine if any employees were in contact with an infected coworker. They also set return-to-work dates for employees after an exposure to or illness from COVID-19.

The Postal Service’s quick actions likely saved lives and certainly increased employee safety. Despite these efforts to contain COVID-19, 33,945 employees took leave to quarantine, 7,421 tested positive for the virus, and 80 died, as of July 31, 2020. The number of new, positive cases in the Postal Service steadily increased since the first confirmed case in February 2020 through the end of July 2020. Therefore, vigilance and additional precautions could help further protect employees.

Findings

While we recognize the challenges facing the Postal Service during the pandemic, we identified three areas where the Postal Service can better protect its employees: (1) face covering policy, (2) contact tracing program, and (3) employee health screening.

First, Postal Service employees did not always wear face coverings when proper social distancing could not be achieved. We visited 10 facilities, including five mail processing and five retail and delivery facilities, and observed employees at four retail and delivery facilities (40 percent) who did not adhere to the local face covering policy. In addition, during our review of camera footage, we observed 41 of 117 facilities (35 percent) with at least one employee not wearing a face covering where a local mandate required one, and while not social distancing.

These employees were behind the counter or in the back of a retail and delivery facility or on the workroom floor in a processing facility.

The Postal Service face covering policy at all facilities cited local or state mandates and when employees could not maintain social distancing in the workplace. However, facility management voiced confusion with the policy and interpreted it to mean that state and local directives determined whether employees were required to wear face coverings. Postal Service Headquarters considered the local requirements supplemental to the nationwide policy.

In addition, managers of offending employees were not always aware they could enforce the face covering policy. An enforcement process which includes engaging the union representative and taking appropriate action existed; however, it was not well-known or followed because it was only communicated verbally to some managers. The confusing face covering policy and its inconsistent enforcement put employees at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 and potentially decreased employee availability.

Second, the Close Contact Tracing Program did not include an overarching program goal with associated metrics and did not ensure adequate staffing. Management indicated they did not establish goals for the contact tracing program because they did not believe contact tracing was measurable and did believe that its application varied case by case. However, program goals and performance metrics are essential to monitor progress and determine resources needed. In addition, the responsibilities of and reliance on the nursing staff grew during the pandemic because local public health departments were unable to complete contact tracing. As of July 31, 2020, there were 116 Postal Service nurses nationwide, with 30 vacancies — a 21 percent vacancy rate. Local management did not actively post open positions on the Postal Service’s career website. Retaining a full complement of nurses, or supplementing them where necessary with contractor support, is especially important during the COVID-19 crisis.

Lastly, although the CDC recommended temperature taking for employees in April 2020, the Postal Service did not deploy temperature taking within its facilities nationwide. As of July 31, 2020, there was at least one employee who either tested positive for COVID-19 or quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus at over 7,000 Postal Service facilities. The Postal Service conducted a temperature taking proof of concept test in May 2020 at four facilities, and it plans to conduct health screening tests at two additional facilities.

The Postal Service indicated that it has not deployed nationwide temperature taking tests because completing the test is resource intensive and there were privacy concerns. The Postal Service’s process for conducting the tests was complicated, and it required the purchase of different types of thermometers, additional employee time, and coordination with the law department and unions. Additionally, the Postal Service determined that temperature taking alone would not be enough to identify employees with COVID-19. Without conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks of employees before they enter the facility, employees could come to work while sick, increasing the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 to other employees and customers.

We did not evaluate recent operational changes made by the Postal Service or the significant increases in delayed mail at delivery units experienced this summer. In response to a congressional request received on August 7, 2020, we have an ongoing project which will evaluate these operational changes and their impact on mail service.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Clarify and communicate the Postal Service’s face covering policy for consistent, nationwide application.
  • Communicate policy regarding immediate enforcement and corrective action for non-compliance with the face covering policy.
  • Re-evaluate the Close Contact Tracing Program to include program goals, performance metrics, and a hiring initiative to ensure adequate staffing.
  • Evaluate options and implement a nationwide health screening initiative which may include employee self-certification.

Read full report

Audit Resolution - Recommendation 2

OIG Response

Audit Resolution - Recommendation 4

OIG Response

Comments (419)

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  • anon

    No mask on postal person at North Oxford, Ma. Post office!!!!

    Feb 26, 2021
  • anon

    Johnsonville NY Post Office clerk was not wearing a mask and talking to customers

    Feb 25, 2021
  • anon

    Gaffney sc post office feb 24. No employees wearing face coverings behind counters or most of people coming into building. What happened to mandate in federal facilities? I guess not here!!!

    Feb 24, 2021
  • anon

    Accordingly, to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce, and to ensure the continuity of Government services and activities, on-duty or on-site Federal employees, on-site Federal contractors, and other individuals in Federal buildings and on Federal lands should all wear masks, maintain physical distance, and adhere to other public health measures, as provided in CDC guidelines. This is directly from White House executive orders. The key word here is “should” which means recommended same as CDC recommends. NOT REQUIRED. If you feel unsafe you wear a mask or stay at home.

    Feb 28, 2021
  • anon

    Not a federal building

    Feb 25, 2021
  • anon

    USPS employee at downtown Dayton, Ohio office on Ludlow Street near 3rd [between 11 a.m. and noon on 2.24.21] was not wearing a mask. She was working behind the desk. Neither was a customer, who had it by his chin, and nothing was said.

    Feb 24, 2021
  • anon

    Employees at both Galveston Texas USPS locations are serving the public WITHOUT MASKS. Our President has mandated mask wearing in public places and on federal property. If all customers have to wear masks then the employees should also. It is a common courtesy.

    Feb 22, 2021
  • anon

    Recommended only. Re-read executive order at WH.gov. It says “should” not required. Have a good day.

    Feb 28, 2021
  • anon

    I Live in Winterport Maine and none of the postal carriers will wear a mask and when i confronted them they said it was optional. I called in they said they would speak to the carrier and the next day back with no mask. Thanks USPS for keeping us safe.

    Feb 22, 2021
  • anon

    The Post Office for 80864 doesn't enforce any of the mask or social distancing rules. No one behind the counter is wearing a mask. The room is very small, so the sign outside says "one customer at a time." While I was there two different customers waltzed in, not wearing masks, did not bother to keep any distance from me, post master chatting and laughing away with them. So much for trying to stop the spread of the virus. Thanks a bunch, postal employees.

    Feb 22, 2021
  • anon

    Annville, PA Saturday Feb. 20, 2021. Both male window employees not wearing masks...DO YOU CARE-DOUBT IT SINCE others below complained in these complaints.

    Feb 22, 2021
  • anon

    I work at Metro Nashville Post office and there are still a few that do not wear proper face coverings. I work Amazon Sundays at the Church street Station and no one was wearing a face covering at all with exception of my self. I feel uncomfortable being around people who are not following guidelines in that close of working quarters. Even worse the supervisor is not even wearing a face covering or enforcing the rules.

    Feb 21, 2021
  • anon

    I work at the aledo post office in aledo tx. Our policy is still 14 days quarantine but my post master came back in 7 to 10 day. I was trying to leave after doing my job on January 5 or6 due to my mother not acting right. She forced me to make a statement about an incident after Christmas then wanted to talk. I neededto get home. I wrote a statement that she didn't like. I finally got home and had to rush my mother to hospital where we found out she had pneumonia then covid.i called her the next morning and informed her of my mother getting covid. She was nice about it but called the police on me and never informed them that I was under covid protocol. I came down with covid 6 days later after a false negative. If i would have not taken another test i would have exposed everyone at work to covid. All they cared about was covering it up that she came in to soon. I haven't been able to come back to work because I have to see a psychiatrist and cannot see one till March. Now i have to take flma or lwop.

    Feb 21, 2021
  • anon

    Tinley Park, Illinois (IL) - employees in facility wore no masks and did not distance. The place is filthy.

    Feb 21, 2021
  • anon

    I've never worked for the post office, but based on reading a lot of posts here, it seems like a terrible - horrible place to work at - yikes!

    Feb 19, 2021
  • anon

    Are USPS postal workers required to wear masks while at the front counter dealing with customers? I'm asking because every time I go to my post office, the supervisor never has on a mask. I've asked him on several different occasions why is he always at the front counter dealing with customers yip yappin' away without a mask on. If the supervisor doesn't care about himself catching Covid, then at least he should be a decent human being and care about others potentially catching Covid from him if he's asymptomatic. I called the USPS 1-800 customer service number and made 2 complaints, but that was pointless - the rep told me flat out that they couldn't do anything about it and she directed me to call their consumer affairs number - which was also pointless. I called the consumer affairs number on many different days, at many different times during regular business hours, and the call either automatically disconnected or I get a busy signal. I even verified with the USPS 1-800 postal rep that I had the correct number. I read online about other postal workers in different states/locations not wearing masks - apparently USPS is not concerned about really enforcing mask wearing of employees.

    Feb 19, 2021
  • anon

    I was an employee at the USPS NEVADA CITY. Our supervisor told an employee that said he had Covid symptoms that he had to come to work. As a result myself and several other employees got Corona virus. I put my notice in December 19 because this manager told this employee to come in with symptoms. On December 23 I had symptoms myself was tested December 25 and verified with a positive test result December 27, 2021.

    Feb 18, 2021
  • anon

    My post office contains my mail box. That means I have no choice but to enter. Absolutely NONE of the employees wear masks regardless of how often I’ve asked them to, and they don’t limit customers coming in or enforce any social distancing. I am forcibly subjected every time I get my mail, which I now do as infrequently as possible and get crap off of them for not coming more often. How can I get someone to enforce the mask policy for federal employees? I’m so frustrated and disgusted. My post office is in McCaysville, GA. Zip code 30555. It’s the only one in town and they literally mock me for double masking and trying to keep my distance. Federal employees should have to follow federal law just like the rest of us!!!

    Feb 18, 2021
  • anon

    Postal employees at our post office, zip code 85625 are refusing to wear a mask.

    Feb 18, 2021
  • anon

    All employees interacting with customers should be required to properly wear a mask. I was shocked when I walked into a retail store and saw a clerk not wearing one in Florida. If the USPS is paying for time off, which they should, employees should have to follow masking requirements to prevent the spread.

    Feb 18, 2021
  • anon

    I have medical concerns and was shocked when I had to go into my local post office (zip code 49058) to find the people at the desk not wearing masks AND/OR social distancing. Isn’t it a law in government facilities?

    Feb 18, 2021
  • anon

    In Knippa, Texas, the post masters have NOT been using a mask, to safeguard their customers. Also, they have been allowing, people to go into the post office without wearing masks or social distancing. The post master doesn't put up a plexiglass shield, either, for protection. The post master has been seen sniffling(could of been Covid and not known it) and was not wearing a mask during that time. This post master is a woman. And, a younger guy has, also, been seen not wearing a mask while working in her place. There was a lady who put up a glass and wore a mask for our protection, but they tend to change out post masters, but the lady I first mentioned is, usually, there. The notices on the two doors say a mask is "required" to enter and to follow the rules, but it should be the post master's job to help enforce the rules. They all need to be the prime example to the public since Covid will be among us for a long time, yet. I hope something can be done and changed about this. I don't feel safe and I have loved ones who have health issues, including, myself and extended family that go there.

    Feb 17, 2021
  • anon

    Philipsburg, PA post office 16866. No masked employees and basically none since the start of the pandemic. Many unmasked customers. One employee wears a bandana around their neck, never over mouth or nose. There is one large window with plexiglass on one side, nothing on the other.

    Feb 17, 2021
  • anon

    We live in a rural area in Washington State. All posters requiring masks have been removed. When the post mister was asked, the response was it was up to the people to wear a mask. The post office is small and does not allow six feet of social distancing. We were limited to two people at a time but that poster has also been removed as well! This is a post office building! They should be mandated to enforce the safety guidelines set out! There are people in the building without masks visiting with the workers!

    Feb 16, 2021
  • anon

    I am a Mail handler and was sent on covid leave (mandatory 14 days) (dates being withheld for safety reasons-) even though i had proof of a negative result and was told i would receive 80 hrs or pay for being out but now it has been 2 pay periods since my posotions end on JAN 1 an i have yet to receive such and since i was a temp i have no way of communicating with anyone to help unfortunately this is my only option for help with my issue.

    Feb 14, 2021
  • anon

    Usps employee in Galloway Ohio 43119 Sullivant ave Employee didn’t say anything to the customer who walked in wo mask and started to talk. I told employee to say something but she said she is not allowed How is this possible when u have sign on the front of the door. Isn’t Ohio mandatory mask indoors public? I’m furious as I feel kinda sick from yesterday’s incident

    Feb 14, 2021
  • anon

    Re: safe covid practices at PO in Albuquerque NM serving 87123 zip code. One if the counter staff does not wear a mask. And he is rude as heck! I do not know his name..he has a beard. I go to different location when I need the PO.

    Feb 13, 2021
  • anon

    My carrier sometimes does not wear a mask when delivering in my small hallway. How can report this?

    Feb 13, 2021
  • anon

    The USPS mailman that delivers our apartment mail does not wear a mask. is there a way to report him? It's a very closed space without 6 feet of room to navigate around him tot he front door.

    Feb 12, 2021
  • anon

    The postal workers in my post office in Eureka, Montana refuse to wear masks. I have requested they do and they have repeatedly refused and have been rude to me. There are not six feet of clearance between them and customers. They have plexiglass barriers up but the barriers are installed off to the side of the desk and not between the customer and employee. I have never seen them clean the desktop between customers. Whom do I contact to address this?

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    I have been to my local post office (05340) three times since the presidential order and twice the attendant was not wearing a mask. Although it is a rural office it is very busy and often has 2-3 attendants working. The entire counter is not covered by a barrier.

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    I wonder what the percentage of employees is that are claiming to have be exposed and are just taking paid time? Its been established that not only are there are plenty who don't have their fellow workers and the public's well being as a priority but are also being lead by an irresponsible PMG in Louis DeJoy.

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    I'm curious why postal workers who deliver mail to school buildings can refuse temperature checks as well as signing the contact tracing books. I confirmed this with a post office supervisor.

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    I've worked in many north alabama post offices and I can say whole heartedly that managers, employees and cleaning services are not abiding by covid19 guidelines and the protection we've been given is inadequate. To make matters worse we are sent to offices to work for people that are out due to covid19 and the offices haven't been deep cleaned after learning of positive cases. This is a risk to employees and customers.

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    Are Mountain Home, ID postal clerks violating the Presidential mandate by not wearing masks when they are providing customer services?

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    I thought the mandate required EVERYONE working inside the post offices to wear masks! NEVER SEE ONE AT THE POST OFFICE IN MARIETTA,SC!! Really pissed off with the idiots!

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    Ruckersville, Virginia PO. I was waiting in line yesterday when a older employee emerged from their back work area not wearing a mask. He walked right by the people (within inches) standing in their spaced line. He acted like he could have cared less. When I looked thru the doorway from where he came I noticed another older gentleman starting to come thru the same back work space. I’m sure they were heading out to lunch. This flaw in mask requirements and customer inter-action should be corrected.

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    Hello. Thank you for your message. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    I'm curious why the post office clerk was unmasked while working? I live in a state where there was a stay at home order for everything, meaning hospitals are at capacity. I had to go in and the transaction took more than 5 minutes. There was a plastic sheet up between us, and I had 2 masks on since I have cancer, but it seems irresponsible to have the employee unmasked. Is it not required?

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    Camp Hill, PA (1701), patron-facing employees were not in compliance with a mask mandate. One employee wore no mask, one wore a mask but it protected her chin only, one employee wore a gaiter-style (useless) mask, and one employee wore a standard mask. I walked out, without mailing my package. I took my package to a UPS store where the employees wear masks.

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    I was just in the post office in Escanaba MI. None of the staff had facial coverings and half of the customers also did not have face masks. The gentleman ahead of me asked the clerk why they did not follow the law and or enforce it. The clerk responded that it was an individual right!???

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    Today I visited the Post Office at East Bank, WV (25067). The clerk and the customer ahead of me were not wearing masks.

    Feb 08, 2021
  • anon

    I was just in a Post office in Greene County, TN. Not one of the employees had a mask on. While I was in line one of the employees sneezed. . Also the customers were predominantly older. I was shocked by the disregard for human life.

    Feb 08, 2021
  • anon

    Hello, I am in a state where postal workers must wear a mask. I just saw a poster worker not wearing a mask. How do I report this?

    Feb 06, 2021
  • anon

    It is really wrong to not know until it’s too late that face masks aren’t required in Post Offices despite local laws in CA requiring them. I didn’t know a customer being served in front of me for a long time wasn’t wearing one until she turned around. The employees did nothing including when I was harassed for saying something. It put way too many of us in danger. It should be required to wear a face mask in all post offices as part of the federal mandate!!

    Feb 06, 2021
  • anon

    I came to this page concerned about my experience at the post office in Blowing Rock Rd. in Boone, North Carolina. I would say 1/2 of the employees were masked. It was terribly disappointing and worrisome for me as I had to wait in line for several minutes and then was seen by one of the unmasked workers. It’s federal property, is it not?? Mask mandate must apply.

    Feb 05, 2021
  • anon

    None of the post office staff were wearing masks at the Broadway post office in Galveston TX 77554

    Feb 05, 2021
  • anon

    Why is no one at the Bailey, NC Post Office wearing masks?

    Feb 05, 2021
  • anon

    Valley Springs,CA Post Office. None of the employees in the back wear masks. I've heard management tells them they don't work and doesn't enforce them even though I heard some employees even had covid.

    Feb 05, 2021
  • anon

    Kokomo Indiana Post Office at 2719 S Webster St 46902 For the duration of this pandemic there has been a significant number of customer-facing employees not masking, and not social distancing. This is at the service counter. There is a sign in the lobby saying masks are “recommended”. It’s unacceptable and incorrect, masks are required on federal property. Please retrain our local post office workers. We love them but they’re making us sick.

    Feb 05, 2021

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