BALTIMORE — Baltimore USPS customers may be experiencing mail delays due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak among Maryland postal employees.
A USPS spokeswoman confirmed 104 Maryland postal employees tested positive for COVID-19 from April 1 through April 7. Since March 2020, 1,159 postal employees in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus.
And while essential workers in Maryland have been eligible for vaccines since January 25, a postal worker with COVID-19 said this is the most cases he's seen since the pandemic began.
“Things got back to normal for maybe two weeks and I think it's worse now than it was when it first started. We have a ton of people out again,” he said.
The worker asked to remain anonymous over concerns he could lose his job.
He started experiencing COVID-19 symptoms last Monday but chalked it up to seasonal allergies.
“And then starting Wednesday, Thursday of last week it just went downhill. Breathing was bad, it got pretty bad,” he said.
“Did you ever think you'd have to go to the hospital?” asked WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
“There was a day, yah definitely, where just walking from the bed to the bathroom I mean it took everything you had to breathe,” he said.
And he feels he took every precaution he could to avoid the virus.
“It's tough when you've battled for a year and you've done everything the right way and you stay as sanitary as you can and neat and clean and then just one day this happens,” he said.
USPS temporarily closed down two Baltimore offices due to these cases. The Hampden Post Office was closed for one day on April 2. The Roland Park Post Office was closed April 2-3 and April 5.
When asked about cleaning protocols for those offices, a USPS spokeswoman said “all cleaning occurs in a manner consistent with CDC guidance relating to this pandemic.”
The worker added that recently, mail has not been getting to where it needs to be while workers recover at home.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time our goal is to make sure all packages get out on a daily basis, so I'd come back and take packages for a different route or what have you, but the mail itself wouldn't get delivered. Mail will sometimes sit there 2-3 days,” he said.
In an email to WMAR-2 News, a USPS spokeswoman wrote:
“While the coronavirus pandemic impacted some mail deliveries in parts of the city last week, we have taken appropriate actions within our control to ensure mail deliveries continued. We believe mail deliveries have returned to normal. We apologize for any inconvenience and we thank our customers for their patience and understanding.”
WMAR-2 News also requested data on how many local employees have been vaccinated.
While we didn't ask for employees’ names, we were told specific employee medical information is kept confidential.
“I know people are getting vaccinated, but I think one of the issues is we're having to do it on our own time, like during sick leave. We have to take off to basically get vaccinated,” the worker said. “Nothing's been done to help us coordinate to get vaccinations.”
The state helps facilitates vaccination clinics for essential workers. Recently, 3,300 manufacturing workers were vaccinated in a couple of days.
And while USPS is encouraging workers to get vaccinated, a spokesperson with the governor's office said USPS has not reached out to them about setting up a clinic.
Senator Chris Van Hollen’s Office has received more than 900 complaints about the USPS delays.
In a statement to WMAR-2 News, he wrote:
"In addition to addressing the unacceptable delivery delays Marylanders are facing, USPS must improve measures to ensure the health and safety of workers – especially as we continue to fight this virus. It's critical that the Senate work to confirm President Biden's recent nominees to the Board of Governors as soon as possible in order to resolve these issues and create safer working conditions for postal workers.”