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

    A postal worker in Eugene doesn't put his mask on until he's standing at the counter, and then it's under his nose. A postal worker in a small rural town in Oregon doesn't wear her mask over her face at all. Furthermore, her mask is nothing but a "gaitor," single layer. I saw her leaning through the door talking to one of the carriers, about a foot away from her face, with no mask. I felt extremely uncomfortable standing in the tiny lobby while she weighed my packages and rang me up. The customers just before me were not wearing masks properly, either, so I was very aware of standing in a very small room where they had been for a while. I shouldn't have to feel so uncomfortable when there are supposedly policies and rules in place. But in small towns, if you say something, you are vilified or worse...

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    I was at the USPS this morning at Brookhaven, Atlanta location (12/14/2020, around 9:20am). One customer did not have on a mask and was hoping an employee would say something. But when I looked at the counter, the employee handling the packages was NOT properly wearing his mask. He had it on under his chin! What is the point of having it if you're not doing to wear it properly! An angry customer walked by said to the no-mask customer, "you should wear a mask', another customer offered an extra mask, but he declined stating, "I'm not going to wear a mask. No, I'm not doing that." The no mask customer and employee had a fun time laughing and chatting about other flustered customers. Bad mouthing them and going off about ho "people want to blame others and not take accountability for themselves." I probably will not visit the USPS until masks are mandated throughout all USPS.

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    My driver knocked on my door yesterday without a mask wishing to speak with me face to face. By the time I opened my door to see who was there, he was only about a foot away from me speaking without a mask. Who can I report this to?

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    I live in Dickson City PA and none of the mail carriers are wearing masks. I did see one female carrier with a mask on but none of the male carriers. WHY??

    Dec 12, 2020
  • anon

    My husband works at a USPS office in Dryden NY and a co=worker has called in twice saying that he was either been in touch with someone with COVID or his baby was running a fever and he got COVID from his mother-in-law. The supervisor/post master in the small office told him to call a postal nurse. My husband and the other workers have been waiting for a call from the nurse indicating what they should be doing. It has been days and there has been no call. The last time the employee came back without a written note from our understanding. We are beginning to think the employee isn't even really sick. Yet he is getting the paid leave and letting all the others worry that they have been exposed. Where is the contract tracing? Should the supervisor not ask for a return to work clearance in writing?

    Dec 12, 2020
  • anon

    Why is there a post office retail employee who refuses to wear a mask at the east Cobb branch 30068. There are plenty of elderly people who have to wait online in a sealed room with this guy who touches his face and then the mail. Make him put on a mask or leave!

    Dec 12, 2020
  • anon

    I reported my mailman yesterday when I went to the Alvarado postal office. I mentioned to him that it has been almost the whole year. I told him my regular postman becomes irate if anyone on my street mentions a mask. He said he would talk to the workers. Well today another postman showed up at my door without a mask. We have a serious covid 19 problem like the rest of the country here in Albuquerque.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    Two female employees in Millbury Mass. post office do not wear face coverings. Twice I went there and they weren't wearing masks; they became indignant when I asked why. They said they are behind acrylic barriers and do not need them. One said there were only a few employees working "back there" with each other so it wasn't necessary to wear masks. I am a senior citizen and afraid to go there now.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    I am surprised at the lack of adequate protections at the White Bluff, TN 37187 post office. 100% employees without masks. Patrons often without masks. Social distancing practices seldom followed. Am I crazy or should federal employees set an example for the public? Why should I feel put at risk in a federal building?

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    In Frankfort and Monroe, Maine, postal workers do not wear masks! It's a joke when your workers can't protect us during this pandemic, or when Governor's orders for face masks are mandated in certain states. At the Monroe post office yesterday, the USPS clerk wasn't wearing a face mask, nor did she ask the client in front of me to put her mask on! I hope the USPSOIG will start investigating these issues more clearly, AND offer an easy to find, reporting link for such activity, for those of us impacted.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    COVID is psychological warfare coming from foreign government influences. COVID is not lethal, the death toll is fudged and the lying mainstream media is LEFTIST CONTROLLED. Possible evidence may be found indicating various government officials (Biden, Pritzker and Lightfoot of Illinois) accepting bribes from the offending foreign government. Illinois Gov. Pritzker's mask wearing mandate is DICTATORIAL, UNCONSTITUTIONAL. As a postal service employee (Cardis Collins facility Chicago) I am OUTRAGED at the political stance of our government. I refuse to wear the mask and had been given an ultimatum to wear it or not come to work. I have a GOD GIVEN RIGHT to Breathe in the Breath of Life protected by the CONSTITUTION. Mask wearing mandates is a belligerent stance against the constitution and I suggest that such regulations become modified because I do respect others who believe that such virus exist.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    Hello Mr. Cooper, The constitution certainly protects your God given right to breath in the sweet "breath of life" but the US CONSTITUTION does not give you the right to expose and infect others!! Therefore, I certainly appreciate you staying home and not taking other Americans rights away. Good day to you sir.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    I turned in my mail carrier who refuses to wear and mask here in Albuquerque. I went to the alvarado ststion today and spoke o the supervisor. Several other mail carriers dont wear masks that deliver in my neighboorhood.

    Dec 10, 2020
  • anon

    In Bovard,Pa 15619 we do not have home delivery of mail we all have PO Boxes and have to go inside to obtain our mail The current postmaster and some customers refuse to wear masks I do not feel safe in going to get my mail. Aren’t the postal service employees required to wear masks?

    Dec 10, 2020
  • anon

    I recently accepted a job offer from USPS but have not started yet. I was concerned and unaware due to lack of communication about what it would be like working there during covid. After reading this I feel like I would be uneccessarily risking my life working at a mail processing plant. I cannot believe that masks are not required by every single employee and customer in a USPS facility. Temperature checks should be required as well. We are in the midst of a national emergency as this points out, I don't give a crap about someone's privacy involving their temperature. I also cannot believe how unorganized and discombobulated it sounds as an agency. I am rethinking my choice to take a job there but I need the money. This is shameful.

    Dec 10, 2020
  • anon

    it really isn't as bad as everyone is making it out to be.... there's more than 31k offices in the nation, and only 60something comments bickering here. it isn't a bad place to work, don't let these saps keep you from accepting a great job.

    Dec 15, 2020
  • anon

    The Molalla Oregon post office in CLEAR VIOLATION of Oregon's mandate that all people must wear masks inside and outside of buildings is NOT ENFORCING mask wearing by the public in the post office. Brian Blow, postmaster in Molalla, on Nov. 9 claimed that the PO does not have to comply with Oregon's rules - that is making the Molalla post office where I observed three customers NOT WEARING MASKS INSIDE, a danger to the public and in violation of Oregon's mask wearing mandate. Please stop this from happening. If a state mandate is in place, the PO should have to comply fully with the mandate.

    Dec 09, 2020
  • anon

    AMERICA is not a NANNY STATE although we're becoming one. State mandates are UNCONSTITUTIONAL. I ask that you don't sacrifice your FREEDOM OF CHOICE because of an OVERBLOWN COVID PYSOP. COVID is a POLITICAL TOOL used to control our behavior and destroy our freedoms protected by the constitution. The mainstream media which is controlled by the LEFTIST, the Medical Industrial Complex and various government officials are LYING. COVID is a matter of OPINION; don't believe the hype.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    You have all the freedom you want to commit suicide by self-neglect, however you do not have the right to expose others to potential death, that's wear your freedom ends. The prisons are full of people who take the lives of others.

    Dec 27, 2020
  • anon

    Covid is serious. I just lost another relative from covid. Our hospitals are full and thousands are dying everyday across the country.

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    Post office employees in Ravenna Ohio are mostly not wearing masks... Including some at the windows. On Friday I witnessed 4 employees, working and talking in close proximity not wearing masks... The man at the counter dropped his mask from his nose while typing in data. Today, a man at the counter only put a mask on when I pointed to mine... And as soon as I turned to Ieave he took it if again as the next person stepped forward. I have already changed which oust figure I go to because masks were not being worn at my closer post office.

    Dec 09, 2020
  • anon

    The wearing of mask is an issue of BELIEF AND OPINION; there are no valid records given to the public substantiating the lethal quality of COVID. The public is controlled by a political tool ie COVID. Postal employees are well within their GOD GIVEN RIGHT not to wear a mask; if you want a mask then wear it. I request that you don't force your fears and hysteria on others

    Dec 11, 2020
  • anon

    You are the reason for the high body count.

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    God given right? It's our God given right not to wear clothes and not to wear shoe and a shirt in restaurants. It's polite to cover your mouth when we sneeze. Victor Cooper, you must proudly be a member of the IgTrp Cult!

    Dec 21, 2020
  • anon

    i hope you get covid :)

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    Postal workers at both Midland and Sanford, Michigan offices refuse to wear masks. Making lots of customers uncomfortable to go inside. They are also not enforcing the max amount of customers allowed. Very disappointing and stressful, especially for high risk customers and elderly people.

    Dec 09, 2020
  • anon

    USPS on Booker T Washington Highway at Westlake has only a half screen up and no one wearing mask. Please address for our safety and compliance with Governor Northam’s order. USPS at Hardy, VA has plastic up but no one wears a mask. Please address for our safety and compliance with Governor Northam’s order.

    Dec 08, 2020
  • anon

    I would say its a personel choice , in August the world health organization declare there no longer was a pandemic ,wearing a face muzzle is very offensive to many people and is very questionable as to its abilty to contain a virus plus its a breeding ground for bacteria spreading germs everywhere as people touch there mask constantly..

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    Visited post office on 12/7/20 on Dowlen rd Beaumont TX. Tried to stay far from people. Half customers not wearing mask and employees at counter not wearing mask. Blatant disrespect. Not coming back.

    Dec 08, 2020
  • anon

    The facial covering policy at the Mosinee Wisconsin post office is a joke. Virtually nobody follows it and management does absolutely nothing to enforce and actually seems to encourage non compliance. Huge liability issue for USPS as well as extremely poor public policy.

    Dec 06, 2020
  • anon

    A substantial raise for all Postal Employees while COVID is rising. Connecticut MHA’s and PSE’s are really suffering financially. Take Temperatures of employees entering all USPS buildings especially the P& DC.

    Dec 06, 2020
  • anon

    Politics in my office play a huge role. Trump supporters will rarely mask, and when they do, noses are showing, or being warn on the chin only. Rarely see any hand washing, vehicles are filthy. Our janitor walks around half the time talking to other employees with no mask. I see people taking to each other all the time no mask, managers that remove mask or pull it down to give a stand up. My problem is the time clock, maskless carriers within a few feet of each other not caring for their fellow workers or their families. It’s an everyday occurrence. Truly horrifying.

    Dec 05, 2020
  • anon

    The supervisor of the Bloomfield office in Pittsburgh, Pa does not wear a mask. And asks the employees to put them on their chin. We are surging. Hospitals are stressed. And she boldly defied leadership. Send her home.

    Dec 05, 2020
  • anon

    Greenwood, SC I didn’t see any employees wearing mask... in front or in back

    Dec 04, 2020
  • anon

    KCMO P&DC 1700 Cleveland KCMO Tour3 employees in PARS WASTE exposed to employee with confirmed Covid not informed. There was no contact tracing although there is no social distancing and employees work 8 hours in close proximity. All of the employees are African American females living with or in daily contact with elderly family members. How are we supposed to protect ourselves and our family if we are not informed of possible exposure?

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    It seems that the USPS workers in Somerset, PA (15501) appear to be exempt from wearing face masks. Hmmm. The town is rampant with COVID and yet these USPS workers don't care that they could possibly be contaminating mail! Their defiance is disturbing. They might need schooling on how they are contributing to the blazing COVID numbers in Somerset, PA. Ignorant workers!!

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    I am disturbed to find out my mail carrier who works for USPS Somerset, PA 15501, has contracted COVID19. No one informed us. Even though this carrier is super professional and wore a mask and gloves his co-workers delivered mail with NO masks! My husband I am in the age range who are at worse risk and have I an on-line business which requires close contact with the mail carrier. Whether you had COVID19 or not you can still carry and spread the virus from others to others. Completely irresponsible, untrustworthy, and dangerous to the community. I expect much better!

    Dec 27, 2020
  • anon

    Tried to call my local post office in Warwick, NY numerous times today (12-3-20). I was there this morning and don't remember if the clerk behind the counter was wearing a mask or not. Is it standard protocol that a) employees are screened everyday before they start work for covid symptoms ie:fever, etc.? b) are they required to wear a mask at all times if helping customers?

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    I'm an employee and no, there is absolutely no health screening. In fact I hear sick people coughing and sneezing all morning. Mask wear is mandated only in certain offices (although when with customers I think it's for every office) and even then it's not enforced very well as management doesn't wear them either.

    Dec 21, 2020
  • anon

    A cough or sneeze doesn't mean you're sick. And being sick doesn't mean you have covid. We need to start thinking clearly. Now, if we wore masks because we did feel a little sick and that let our coworkers know to steer clear and then we sought out our supervisors with leave slips in hand and asks dto be relieved until we can sort this out, then the masks would make sense. But with everybody wearing them, we don't know who's sick. The old practice of stay home if your sick would suffice with an added if you feel sick in the workplace, wash up, grab a mask, and get sent home immediately. I think we'd all be less on edge and see the same level of infection just without the added stress and distrust among coworkers.

    Jan 06, 2021
  • anon

    Paonia, Colorado, 81428 3 out of 4 employees in the office dont wear masks refuse to wear a mask or change their behavior

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    I am a new clerk at Anniston al postal service and a man at night refuse to wear a mask around us and he gets real close to us but doesn’t care. Other people say the supervisor is afraid of him but he could put us in harms way so I am stressed out but I need this job.

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    My postal delivery man does not wear a face mask when delivering our neighborhood mail. I’ve asked him where’s your face mask and he does not respond. There is no area on the USPS website to report this noncompliance requirement. The safety of our neighborhood citizens is at stake. Please advise what is to be done. Rancho Cordova, CA 95670-3174

    Dec 03, 2020
  • anon

    We are not REQUIRED to wear a mask when outdoors and able to social distance. You try being in a mask 8-12 hours a day while walking up and down stairs and carrying packages. Just stay away from your carrier and allow him to do his job safely and efficiently. He should have a mask on when making contact or unable to social distance. Otherwise he is fine. Let him work.

    Mar 10, 2021
  • anon

    Are you seriously saying that you can't wear a mask for 8-12 hours when doctors and nurses do it. Just admit your selfish and don't care about fellow Americans. It's as simple as that.

    Mar 16, 2021
  • anon

    Waynesville NC not following any safety guidelines, no mask policy being enforced or social distancing. Management requiring carriers to ride with one another for over 8hours. Cleaning, joke. The place is filthy and not being sanitized. Management is negligent is keeping employees safe. Why should anyone have to wait for someone to die , to be acting in good faith. This needs immediate attention. Everyone, is at a higher risk without taking the proper precautions and mitigation.Help us

    Dec 02, 2020
  • anon

    In the very small West Hurley, New York post office today there were people sorting mail with no face coverings. The employee at the customer desk was wearing a mask. This seems ridiculous to me with the skyrocketing rate of Covid in Ulster County.It is childish and irresponsible.

    Dec 02, 2020
  • anon

    At the P&DC in Washington Tacoma wearing of a mask is a joke you have half the folks in defiance of wearing a mask properly while working around others and management to afraid to correct employees of the governors order to wear mask. So how come the Postal Service is not being fine or closed down by not being in compliance with the state order. Doesn't all our lives matter cause this disease does not discriminate Who is protecting us from those who could be walking around effected not wearing there mask properly. HELP US!!This is no laughing matter do Better USPS who's suppose to be protecting us and our Families .

    Dec 02, 2020
  • anon

    They aren't orders. Governors don't give citizens orders. They gave guidance. If they were law, just like stealing is against the law, you would contact the postal police, and they'd deal with it and an employee would be walked out. Do the same for a mask you will not get the same reaction. It is not a law. No office should be shut down when what they are doing is actually following the law and upholding peoples rights. Your life does matter. But a mask won't protect you. Make sure you're in good health and consult tour primary care physician. Don't be so entitled to think every human in passing must alter their natural state of being because you believe they'll get you sick when you have no evidence that they are sick or even contagious. Please.

    Jan 06, 2021
  • anon

    At the Bethany Oklahoma Post Office two of the clerks helping customers were not wearing masks. This was in a very small area, it is a very old post office. When I asked where their masks were the man told me there is no mandatory mask policy implemented in Bethany Oklahoma. Then he told me it was none of my business. I told him it was my business because he could be infecting me right now. I should have left when I saw what was going on. Next time I will.

    Dec 01, 2020

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