JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The United States Postal Service acknowledged Wednesday that three of its employees in Jacksonville have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
In a written statement, the USPS said that two of the employees had been working at one distribution center, the third at a separate distribution center, without specifying the addresses of the specific locations. The USPS also declined to speculate whether the employees had contracted COVID-19 at work, or divulge whether the employees were in quarantine as of Wednesday afternoon.
The Postal Service also cited the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and surgeon general all recently saying there’s no evidence that coronavirus is being spread through the mail. Specifically, the USPS quoted the CDC, saying “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
But parcels can be packaged in a variety of materials – paper, plastic, and cardboard among them. According to the National Institutes of Health, COVID-19 can survive on cardboard for a full day, and on plastic as long as three days.
Disease expert Dr. Payal Kohli, M.D. recently told First Coast News, “With respect to paper, it’s certainly hard to sanitize it very well, but if you take a wipe and just kind of wipe the surface of it a little bit, that may be a reasonable thing to do.”
And, given that many pieces of mail are delivered in shorter timeframes than three days, Kohli urged, “It is important if you’re handling any mail or packages that you’re going to be bringing into your home, that you actually sanitize the surface of those packages.”
Kohli continued by emphasizing the ultimate importance of washing hands frequently and properly.
"It’s you touching the object and then touching your face to really inoculate that virus into your nose or your eyes or your mouth," she explained. "So if you’re just careful and mindful of what you’re touching, and then wash your hands, it should be totally fine."
The entire statement released Wednesday by the USPS reads as follows:
“The U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) has learned that two employees at the Jacksonville Processing and Distribution Center and one employee at the Jacksonville Network Distribution Center have tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
We are in the process of reaching out to the local public health office and will follow the guidance they provide. We believe the risk is low for employees who work at the Jacksonville Processing and Distribution Center and the Jacksonville Network Distribution Center, but we will keep our employees apprised as new information and guidance becomes available.
As you may know, under the Rehabilitation Act and the Privacy Act, specific employee medical information must be kept confidential and may only be shared in very limited circumstances. Therefore, the Postal Service cannot share the name of the employee who tested positive for COVID-19 or further specifics of his or her medical condition.
The safety and well-being of our employees is our highest priority. To ensure the health of our employees, we are continuing to follow recommended guidance and strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
A general media release by the USPS on April 2 can be read here.