JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While a lot of Americans are working from home, the mail is still being delivered, but the people who are delivering that mail tell First Coast News they fear for their health.
“Such a prestigious name, ‘the United States Postal Service’ and they’re allowed to treat their employees the way they are,” mail carrier Carlos Garcia said. “That’s a shame.”
Several mail carriers with USPS expressed concerns to First Coast News about the lack of supplies to protect them on the job.
“The protection that is given to us and what they’re making available to us, it doesn’t really seem like [coronavirus] a big deal to them,” Garcia said.
Garcia delivers mail in Gainesville. He said there’s one bottle of hand-sanitizer in the post office for more than 60 employees.
“It doesn’t make any difference if you put it in there and leave it in the post office for our use. It’s a joke. The whole thing is a joke. It seems like a joke,” he said.
Garcia said employees did each get one pair of gloves, but he and others said they’ve been buying other protective gear for themselves. Other USPS mail carriers, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, expressed similar concerns.
“At least show us that you care about us,” one said. “Right now, you’re showing us you don’t even care about us because you’re not providing the equipment that we need to protect ourselves.”
"We have families at home as well. You're acting like we can't contract the virus and take it back to our loved ones," that employee went on to say.
That employee said the least they can do is pay employees hazard pay.
First Coast News brought these concerns to the USPS. The USPS responded with a statement reading in part, “The Postal Service makes gloves, masks sanitizers and/or disinfectant wipes available to employees who request them. While we have had challenges in some locations with supply, the Postal Service is constantly monitoring the situation and aggressively restocking these materials.”
"The United States Postal Service has a dedicated COVID-19 Command Response leadership team that is focusing on employee, operational business and customer continuity during this unprecedented epidemic. We continue to follow the strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the statement reads.
The statement went on to say the USPS is modifying customer signature procedures, the employee asking now for the customer’s first initial and last name to enter in. Leaders with the USPS said they are sharing the latest information regarding Coronavirus through video, email, internal newsletters, employee conversation and human resources.
"We’re still interacting with customers," Garcia said. Any time I go to the door with a package and they open the door, everything comes rushing out at you at one time, so if anything was in the air, you’re getting slammed in the face with it," he said.
"We are offering liberal leave and have worked with our postal unions to temporarily expand leave options for our employees," the USPS statement reads.
That, Garcia said, simply isn't true, at least at his post office. Despite a memorandum of understanding to use leave during the pandemic, that the USPS is offering "liberal leave" like its statement, Garcia and others said they’ve been encouraged not to take off. In fact, most of the carriers said they’re working more hours because more people are ordering things online.
"[We are] encouraging any employee who feels they are sick to stay home," the USPS statement goes on to say.
“We’re scared to call out sick,” Garcia said. “To call out sick because you're feeling some type of way because of the Coronavirus, it's not going to happen. You’re still going to have people coming into work even if they’re sick because they don’t know if their job is in jeopardy for calling out sick.”
Garcia and others, however, said they won’t leave the job because they need to provide for their families, the very ones they’re worried about possibly infecting.
“[I’m worried] that I’ll bring it [Coronavirus] home,” he said.
“I have a bunch of kids at home and at this point, I’m afraid, staying without money and being able to pay the stuff that needs to be taken care of here as a father, and at the same time bringing it home to my wife and kids and having one of those emergencies that everyone in the house is sick and I’m losing people I don’t want to lose,” Garcia said.
First Coast News spoke with an expert on disease prevention who said Coronavirus can survive on cardboard for 24 hours, so it's a good idea to wipe down packages and mail before opening them.
First Coast News reached out to UPS and FedEx to see what precautions those companies are taking for employees.
UPS said it has modified and will continue to modify its normal procedures to maintain social distance protocols. It has stopped requiring a customer to sign for packages when delivered as well. Vehicles and facilities are disinfected and cleaned daily. UPS said it has distributed personal protective equipment to employees. This includes, the statement said, soap, hand sanitizer and wipes.
“We are following the CDC’s recommendations to maintain the available supply of masks for healthcare workers and those who are caring for people who are sick,” the statement goes on to say. “Accordingly, we are making masks and gloves available to our drivers who make deliveries to healthcare and assisted living facilities. We have distributed 17,000 masks to all of our facilities in the U.S., with another 17,000 on the way.”
UPS will provide up to 10 days of compensation for any employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19, or is required to quarantine, or if a household member is diagnosed with COVID-19 and the employee is required to quarantine.
FedEx said it has also suspended requirements for most customer signatures. It also said in a statement it has provided hand sanitizer at facilities, promotes social distancing on the job and disinfects facilities and vehicles.