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Equipped with a protective face mask and gloves, Rural Letter Carrier Rebecca Higgs from the Millbrook Post Office did her best to stay safe as she went on her mail route around the town of Washington recently. Photo submitted

Local postal workers keep mail moving

HARLEM VALLEY — No matter if the forecast calls for rain, snow or a global pandemic, postal workers have had to continue on the job so people can continue to get their mail. Mail delivery is considered an essential service, putting those workers on the front lines. To stay safe, they’ve had to take the necessary precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Millerton Post Office has maintained its regular hours during the crisis. In spite of the changes resulting from COVID-19, Lori McGhee, the Millerton Post Office’s officer-in-charge, reported that business is running as usual.

“We have a lot of packages this time of year with everybody being at home and ordering things online,” McGhee said.

 McGhee said only two people are allowed in the lobby at a time and that the 6-foot social distancing rule is in place. All surfaces and materials are disinfected two to three times a day, and all workers wear masks and gloves and use hand sanitizer. McGhee added there is social distancing among coworkers, too.

The Amenia Post Office has also maintained its normal hours. There is now a line taped on the floor inside to remind people to keep 6 feet away from each other. A Plexiglas shield has also been set up at the counter to protect postal workers from anyone who may be sick. Employees are also wearing gloves and masks to protect themselves and using wipes and disinfectants to keep the building clean.

“We are doing our best to protect ourselves and our customers,” Amenia Postmaster Faruque Litan said, “but you never know. After we become sick, we can’t be open.”

As far as the pandemic’s impact on business, Litan said he thinks fewer people have been coming in. 

The Pine Plains Post Office declined to comment at this time.

In Millbrook, George Flood, the spokesperson for the northeast area of the United States Postal Service (USPS), reported that in order to minimize health risks and protect both employees and the general public during the pandemic, the Millbrook Post Office is following the recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health departments. Informational posters hang on bulletin boards and daily service talks update all postal workers with the latest guidelines. However, Flood also noted that the CDC, the World Health Organization and the New York State surgeon general have indicated “that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through the mail.”

Masks and hand sanitizers were provided to Millbrook postal workers and social distancing is enforced on the work floor as well as in the retail lobbies and by letter carriers. 

“The Millbrook Post Office team takes great pride in serving the community and keeping everyone safe,” Millbrook Postmaster Ed Rivera said. “I am proud of our employees and their ability to deliver to our customers, especially during these challenging times.”

Tape has been placed on the Millbrook Post Office floors to keep social distancing; barriers have also been installed and signage posted on the outer and inner lobby doors.

Rivera has asked local residents not to approach mail carriers to accept delivery, but to instead let mail carriers leave the mailbox before coming out to collect their mail. If a delivery requires a signature, carriers have been instructed to knock on the door instead of ringing the doorbell and to maintain a safe distance. They have also been instructed to ask for the resident’s name instead of their signature, and to leave the mail or package in a safe place for retrieval. Likewise, Rivera said children should be encouraged not to approach postal vehicles or carriers. 

As far as how this pandemic has impacted postal budgets, Flood stated, “While local data is considered business proprietary, it’s fair to say that post offices in Dutchess County mirror the economic landscape of the Postal Service across the country. The Postal Service relies on the sale of postal products and services to fund our operations and the sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep.”

Addressing the impact of COVID-19, USPS Postmaster General and CEO Megan Brennan released a statement on the USPS’s stimulus needs, on Friday, April 10. Calling this time “a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service,” Brennan said the United States Postal Service estimated that the pandemic will increase the Postal Service’s “net operating loss by more than $22 billion over the next 18 months, and by over $54 billion over the longer term,” thereby threatening its ability to remain open.

“As Congress and the Administration take steps to support businesses around the country, it is imperative that they also take action to shore up the finances of the Postal Service, and enable us to continue to fulfill our indispensable role during the pandemic, and to play an effective role in the nation’s economic recovery,” Brennan stated. “We are grateful for the heroism and commitment of our 630,000 postal employees who continue to serve the American public during this pandemic, and we look forward to working with policymakers on ensuring the solvency of the Postal Service.”

Meanwhile, thousands of U.S. citizens have taken to social media in recent weeks to urge people to buy stamps as a lifeline for the Postal Service during the COVID-19 crisis. Locally, mail carriers have found hopeful handmade messages on their mail routes from residents looking to show their support for the essential workers as they keep the mail moving forward.

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