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 (374)

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  • anon

    In Arcanum, OH 45304 the postal worker had a mask under his chin and did not put it on properly to interact with me.

    Apr 21, 2021
  • anon

    While stopping at the Shanksville post office in Somerset County, PA, I saw that the sign on the door stated that masks are recommended. Masks are required in PA! I have been in this post office several times and not once has the employee been wearing a mask, most customers don't, either. This is totally against the law in PA. I'm glad that I don't have to go inside very often.

    Apr 19, 2021
  • anon

    I was sent home from work on Thursday, April 8 due to coming in contact with an employee who has COVID. I have had no symptoms and I am ready to return to work.

    Apr 16, 2021
  • anon

    Ponte Vedra Beach PO no mask enforcement

    Apr 16, 2021
  • anon

    The post office in quinlan Tx doesnt make employees wear any type of face covering during operating hours nor do they require customers although its on the doors. While Tx lifted mask mandates, i thought it was mandated federally in all federal offices and last i checked, the post office was a federal office

    Apr 12, 2021
  • anon

    In Rural Iowa at the little PO of Rhodes, Iowa they have never put on a mask!!!

    Apr 12, 2021
  • anon

    And further more when my stimulus check gets relieved to the wrong address in South Paris, Maine and a nieybor brings it over a week later because he said it was in his mail box that burns my butt. If the mailman can't read then there is a problem but I know the post office service doesn't care. They will care if people stop using it.

    Apr 09, 2021
  • anon

    The subject to mailman wearing face masks. Some aren't. I know nothing will be said about it. Just like my mail being delivered too the wrong address.

    Apr 09, 2021
  • anon

    There is a female mail carrier in Baltimore, Ohio that refuses to wear a mask when she enters our building to deliver mail. We allow her to use our restroom as a courtesy, but she won't comply with the state mandate or our own policy. She should not be above the same mandates we're required to follow. As a rule, she is rude and unfriendly, but the refusal to help protect others is unconscionable. Hold these folks accountable.

    Apr 08, 2021
  • anon

    A USPS mailman came to my health care facility and downright refused a temperature check. He claimed USPS workers are exempt of temperature checks... As it is OUR policy to screen everyone that comes through the door and enters our building, I informed him I had not ever heard of this. He began to belittle us saying, "Well you must be new here because I will not have my temperature taken." He proceeded to act as if I had pointed some kind of loaded weapon to his forehead. very rude, belittling, and unkind.

    Apr 06, 2021
  • anon

    Put hand sanitizer in the dispensers located by the elevators. They've been empty for years.

    Apr 02, 2021
  • anon

    My post carrier came to my door for a priority package. I open the door a little with a face covering and kindly asked her to put a mask on. She rudely replied with “ I’m outside I don’t have to put a mask on” we are not 6 feet away and she was on MY property. I find this disgusting and dangerous.

    Apr 01, 2021
  • anon

    The OIG has failed the country. The USPS is in direct violation of an executive order across the whole country, so the OIG made a note about it. The End.

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    Yup! I've been beating my head against a wall for over a year now trying to change this to almost no avail.

    Apr 01, 2021
  • anon

    My postal carrier came to my door to deliver a package requiring a signature. He was not wearing a mask and refused to put one on. He said I could either come out and sign for package or he could leave a notice for me to go pick up package he was holding in his hand.

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    Lori, Don’t you think your statement is hypocritical ? First of all a mask will NOT protect you from CORONAVIRUS. Coming in contact (signing) using a pen or whatever puts you and the mail person at high risk of COVID. Why? Because you could have COVID and pass it on through touching his pen. You don’t realize the sacrifice USPS employees go through as we NEVER shut down any plant. Customers want their medications, checks, correspondence delivered. When mail delivery doesn’t occur you are the first one to complain. Shame on you and others like you who take USPS employees for granted all while trying to do their job. Why don’t you try and live like a mail carrier for one day and deal with customers like yourself ? Instant KARMA will teach everyone to be humble and supportive.

    Apr 05, 2021
  • anon

    Covid is an airborne virus, not a virus transmitted by skin. Furthermore, the person could simply wash their hands afterwards. You can’t just wash out the inside of your lungs. The person who is asking the government employee to follow the governments law is not saying that USPS doesn’t work hard. Research studies have shown that the use of face coverings lowers transmission of airborne viruses. So, yes it could prevent you from getting it. Just like a lot of preventive measures

    Apr 06, 2021
  • anon

    I'm a carrier and we have been mandated for months not to even let customers sign for things. We are to make sure you are home and want item and then we are to sign for you and leave item where you can get it without contact with us. Period

    Apr 01, 2021
  • anon

    March 25, 2021 Employees at the Post Office 813 Green Springs Hwy, Homewood, AL 35209 do not wear masks in spite of a Federal mandate.

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    I have struggled with this in central Illinois as well. Area 4 Gateway district is terrible. The plant in Champaign IL is maskless on second shift.

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    My facility in upstate NY will not enforce the mask policy! Its a joke. Every nite clerks and even the supervisor do not wear the mask properly! What is my recourse????????

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    What’s the proper procedure in handling an employee with a documented face covering or mask restriction?...

    Mar 23, 2021
  • anon

    At a retail United States Post Office within a convenience store at 1385 FM 359 in Richmond, Texas no one within the facility wears mask nor are customers required to wear mask. This includes employees in the post office area and post office customers. It is my understanding that this is in violation of President Biden’s Federal facility mask order. Please address this issue and bring them into compliance.

    Mar 22, 2021
  • anon

    What I want to know as a postal employee is why isn't the USPSOIG reading the general thread of these comments and actually doing something about the total lack of federally mandated mask wear across the Postal Service nationwide? Lives have been endangered for over a year now and well over a 100 postal employees have actually died with Covid-19 not to mention who knows how many customers may have been impacted by the total disregard for common sense precautions that some of my co-workers refuse to take.

    Mar 22, 2021
  • anon

    Please mop and clean the floors, of all the stations they're filthy!

    Mar 22, 2021
  • anon

    Our custodian 80301 walks around without a mask, doesn’t sweep or mop, and sometimes no soap, or hand towels in either bathroom. No hand sanitizer anywhere!

    Apr 11, 2021
  • anon

    YES!! The floors are filthy in EVERY USPS office I have been in. One issue is LACK of custodians. USPS has let go of all office cleaners. The dirty work is now supposed to be done by clerks. The problem with this is the hours have been cut from ALL offices. Most postal offices only run with 2 clerks for 4 service windows. Sorting /scanning parcels have to be done when there is no customers. The long lines with one clerk is normal. The pressure of scans is #1 priority today. Customer service, answering phone, cleaning all have taken a backseat because of this. I dropped something on floor while waiting in line and you cannot believe the amount of dirt that was on it. I do not think for one minute that OIG even reads all of these comments!

    Apr 02, 2021
  • anon

    The management at my facility only paid me for the 80hrs of leave for pp17 of 2020. I did not have covid at this time but was sick with a serious medical condition. In the last week of December, I and about 4 of my co-workers all contracted covid-19. All of my co-workers got paid for 100% of their pay. I've tried talking to supervision about this matter and they keep telling me that the only way you qualify for the 2/3rds of your pay is if you have to take care of your child. I've emailed copies of the covid cares act where it clearly reads, if you have had a similar sickness and missed work that you are entitled to the 2/3rds of your pay for up to ten weeks. Thank you for any help.

    Mar 21, 2021
  • anon

    Your story is the same as mine did you get to resolve the problem?

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    In reference to all of the comments on this thread by employees and customers who have noticed the total lack of enforcement by the USPS on mask wear (yes, we are required to wear them), complaining on here is apparently doing nothing as the OIG isn't either reading them or doesn't care the thing you need to do is call your representatives in congress. You can reach your Senator or Representative by calling the Washington DC switchboard at 202-224-3121.

    Mar 20, 2021
  • anon

    I am fully able and in good health from the virus. I am ready to return to work on Tuesday March 23,2021.

    Mar 19, 2021
  • anon

    Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth during work hours at any postal facility and in other public place protects you and those that you come near which is six feet distancing keeps you and others safe from contacting the virus.

    Mar 19, 2021
  • anon

    Postal workers were told that since they were essential workers they were going to be paid essential workers? So when is this going to happen? Not all postal workers that rude. I've seen all the postal workers delivering mail wear their masks. And not only are they wearing their masks they're out here delivering mail at 9:30 at night? They need workers let's put on a mask and go help them. And since everything has been closed out from what I hear there was no bathroom facilities for them to use also. No one seems to focus on that. They need help.

    Mar 19, 2021
  • anon

    I was a customer at the post office today and another customer was not wearing a mask and the postal worker said nothing yet there was a sign saying Mass are required for a customer's in the lobby. When I asked if people were supposed to comply with the required mask-wearing the customer who did not wear a mask use profanity yelled at me and flailed his arms at me. He was very intimidating and the postal workers all said nothing. I think they should speak up especially if they have the sign saying NASA required and a customer brings that subject up for question. This was very threatening and upsetting to me.

    Mar 18, 2021
  • anon

    The Harbor Beach Michigan post office employees are not wearing masks or requiring customers to do so.

    Mar 17, 2021
  • anon

    Are mailmen required to wear a mask? I ask because my mailman will walk into our building every day with his mask down on his chin. Does the USPS not belive COVID19 is real?

    Mar 16, 2021
  • anon

    Yes Lauren, we have been required to wear them since 4/20/20. Unfortunately it is hardly ever enforced. I tried posting the Washington DC switchboard number on here a couple days ago so that people who are experiencing this can call their representatives in DC because it's the only way things will change. Unfortunately, I received an e-mail from the webmaster telling me that it has nothing to do with this thread so they won't post it.

    Mar 19, 2021
  • anon

    Mena, AR 71953 Post office workers refuse to wear a mask, and even verbally criticize the policy

    Mar 15, 2021
  • anon

    I have a severe medical condition that is not conducive to safely wear a face shield, or face mask. Today at my post office she refused to serve me if I didn’t not wear a face mask. The post office will not deliver my mail to the house because I live so close to the post office, so I have no choice but to retrieve my mail from this office daily. It would appear I must compromise my safety to retrieve my mail?

    Mar 12, 2021
  • anon

    My sister in Alabama who is 75 said when she asked a postal worker behind the counter why he wasnt wearing a mask another employee who spoke rudely said He doesnt have to. Alabama has a state wide mask mandate. The Silverhill Alabama post office is not following state or federal mask mandate.

    Mar 12, 2021
  • anon

    3/9/2021 and 3/11/2021 USPS Postal Service employee not wearing mask at customer service window. When asked if it was required, stated, "Yes, but I'm just not". Employee #3 on receipt. Name badge "K**". Unsafe conditions for customers at this location. Other employee on duty was wearing mask on both occasions.

    Mar 11, 2021
  • anon

    I am a carrier in Maryland. For the size of our facility, we should have two custodians. We only have one. The building is filthy. The floor NEVER gets mopped and our custodian makes 12 hours a day doing mail handler work instead of his actual job. Management does not enforce mask wearing because they themselves don't wear their masks. We have had many employees test positive for Covid and have yet to have the building thoroughly cleaned like we are supposed to after a test positive. No one seems to care.

    Mar 10, 2021
  • anon

    Same, same. Filth everywhere. Post master tested positive for covid...neighboring post master arrived to read statement concerning issue as well as SOP for said event...including, “...your office has been completely sanitized and deep cleaned...” while standing next to a garbage can that had not been emptied in 3 weeks. Disgusting! Shameless! I clap for Louis DeJoy...at least he is addressing middle management issues.

    Apr 22, 2021
  • anon

    The three postal employees in Cottleville , Missouri were not wearing masks on 3/9/21at 4:15pm today. The sign says only three customers can be in there at a time and all the customers were wearing masks. Why don’t they have to do their part? A year into the pandemic... Federal employees they should be setting the example. Perhaps it’s not reinforced by management. Do better.

    Mar 09, 2021
  • anon

    Hello are masks required in post office? Are the postal employees working at the customer counter required to wear masks. Today 3/8/21 Wilsall Mt post mistress was unmasked as she waited on customers. This is not the first time I have witnessed this. Thank you.

    Mar 08, 2021
  • anon

    Multiple employees at the post office located at 7800 W Hefner Road in Oklahoma City, OK 73162 do not wear masks during their shifts, or they wear their masks incorrectly. It’s absolutely abhorrent especially since this post office serves so many people in the elderly population. I do not understand why the employees are not being required to wear masks, but something has to change. I do not want to set foot in there if the employees are not taking covid precautions seriously.

    Mar 08, 2021
  • anon

    I am a postal employee in Colorado who has been trying to get this corrected for nearly a year. I've spoken to my Senators office multiple times. What is needed is that anyone witnessing postal employees unmasked (as they are required to do) please, please, please write to your representatives, especially Senate and DEMAND something be done. I can not change this alone.

    Mar 08, 2021
  • anon

    Laurel, Mt. Post office employees do not wear masks . This has been seen many times.

    Mar 07, 2021
  • anon

    My suggestion if postal employees do not have the courtesy to wear a mask to help protect their customers: pay all future bills online and ship all packages via Fed Ex or UPS.

    Mar 04, 2021
  • anon

    Hope you are well. Want to leave a comment about masks wearing of workers at the Rensselaer Indiana post office. I was wondering why none of the employees at the check out do not wear masks. They have plexiglass up but packages are still passed underneath the glass. I was under the impression that all worker should wear masks. Just wanted to being it to your attention. Stay safe.

    Mar 01, 2021

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