I-Team: COVID cases at USPS impacting delivery; employee raises concern about mask compliance

I-Team Special Reports

Notice to customers says agency is 'experiencing unprecedented volume increases,' 'limited employee availability'

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — More than 200 U.S. Postal Service employees across the Las Vegas metro area have tested positive for COVID-19 since the agency began tracking cases. Currently, 63 workers are infected with the virus during the busy holiday season, the I-Team has learned.

One USPS employee in the Las Vegas district has died from the virus, records show.

In October, the I-Team reported at least 18 employees at the Postal Service’s Sunset Road center had tested positive for COVID since the end of September. Documents show the center has seen at least 81 confirmed cases through mid-December.

The postal center sorts mail and packages before they are delivered. More than 700 people work at the center.

In October, the Department of Labor opened an investigation into the outbreak. The administrative offices, which are based at the same location, have seen at least 20 confirmed cases, documents show.

The latest spike in cases and a surge in online shopping is affecting how Las Vegans are getting their mail and packages. A notice sent to USPS customers reads in part, “USPS is experiencing unprecedented volume increases and limited employee availability due to the impact of COVID-19.”

A spokesperson for the agency could not say how many employees were quarantined or out sick, but the National Association of Letter Carriers, the union representing some postal workers, said earlier this month that 14,000 workers were quarantined.

A person who works inside the Sunset facility said now, eight months into the pandemic, some employees are not wearing masks properly.

Since the I-Team’s first report about the COVID outbreak at the center this fall, several USPS employees have contacted the I-Team expressing concern. None have wanted to talk on camera for fear of losing their job, but several questioned the agency’s mask policy and when employees are alerted to outbreaks.

The employee who requested anonymity said workers are being forced to work extended hours due to the abundance of other employees who are out sick.

A spokesperson said the pandemic has impacted other states more severely than Nevada, impacting the entire network and lengthening delivery times.

Inspectors looked at video of more than 100 postal facilities across the country, finding at least one employee at a third of those facilities was not wearing a mask or social distancing. A recent report also found managers at postal facilities across the country were confused about mask policies, writing some were unaware they could enforce a policy.

“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,” a summary of the report said. “Postal Service Headquarters considered the local requirements supplemental to the nationwide policy.” The report does not list any specific location.

Nevada’s mask policy went into effect in June. This fall, the governor advised anyone working indoors to wear a mask at all times.

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