The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing its busiest period of the year ahead of the holiday season, but it is being forced to do so without all of its normal resources.
More than 14,000 USPS employees are currently quarantining due to potential COVID-19 exposure, according to a recent update provided to the National Association of Letter Carriers, which represents more than 2% of the postal workforce. More than 7,000 employees are currently positive for the novel coronavirus or presumed to be, meaning more than one out of every 100 workers currently has COVID-19. About 23,000 employees have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic.
The uptick in cases—USPS has seen positive tests skyrocket by 43% in the last month—comes at a difficult time for the mailing agency, which always sees mail and package volume soar in December. Due to restrictions and fears related to the pandemic, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said he expects record volume this season and increases of more than one-third compared to 2019. The Postal Service’s private sector competitors are overrun, DeJoy added, meaning USPS will get additional overflow.
The postmaster general, who has faced significant criticism during his brief tenure for policies that led directly to mail delays, acknowledged the uptick of coronavirus cases is taking its toll.
“We continue to see high rates of absenteeism in hot spots around the country,” DeJoy said in a video message to employees on Monday. “This has an impact on local and national service performance and it adds stress throughout the workforce.”