Post office adapts to COVID-19 protocols

By ED HOWELL
Posted 3/26/20

Jasper Postmaster Greg Conner said on Wednesday that the COVID-19 virus is forcing officials to find ways to reduce in-person traffic and contact, but that the post office is planning to continue window and delivery services for now. 

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Post office adapts to COVID-19 protocols

Posted

Jasper Postmaster Greg Conner said on Wednesday that the COVID-19 virus is forcing officials to find ways to reduce in-person traffic and contact, but that the post office is planning to continue window and delivery services for now. 

"We're getting multiple calls daily," he said. "I will say hello, and they will say, 'We just want to make sure you are open.' As of this time, we have no plans of shutting down, delivery or the window, at this time. They will see in the paper or on the news if we decide to shut down. They will probably see it a week prior to us doing it, unless it is that big an epidemic that they have to do it at the spur of the moment." 

The hours at the post office remain 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

At the same time, if one comes, social distancing will be enforced, as posters remind people to have no more than 10 people in the lobby at a time, and to keep 6 feet away from each other. 

One only has to look down to get the hint. 

"We have positioned our lobby with X's (on the floor) to try and make customers stay 6 feet away from each other where they are not packed in together," Conner said. "We are trying to keep the doors open where if we have more customers than we have X's can even line up in the box lobby."

He said postal officials are encouraging customers, especially those who are elderly, to use orange-colored stamp request envelopes, where the request can be made through the mail instead of in person at the window. That, in turn, would eliminate traffic in the lobby. 

One can order a roll of 100 stamps for $55, a book of 20 stamps for $11, as well as individual stamps and stamped envelopes and postcards. A check or money order in the envelope should be payable to "Postmaster," with the envelope left in the mailbox. 

"We have them at the front counter, available upon request, or they can call us and we can send them one in the mail," he said. 

One can also purchase money orders using the envelopes on the rural routes. 

Also, one can no longer walk in to arrange for passports. 

"You actually have to go online and make an appointment from between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday," Conner said. 

Meanwhile, he said postal officials are trying to be as proactive as possible instead of reactive after the fact, starting with efforts to spray and clean down the facility as many times daily as possible. 

"We're actually contemplating going to get shower curtains, and putting them up at the window and letting them fall where we can actually get the money, the packages, the stamps, whatever, up under the shower curtain where the straight access to breathing won't be to the customer or to the window clerk," Conner said. 

He said officials are also giving consideration to deliveries on the street, "that if their doors are locked, to make ways to get them their mail other than knocking on the door or waiting on them to come to the door - putting your receptacle on the outside where the carrier can just drop it down and go," he said. "For some banks, we're actually going through the drive-through and dropping it where we don't have to go in." 

As far as handling the mail itself, there is no way to segregate mail away from each other, he said. Conner said the virus is said to be on cardboard for 24 hours, but packages cannot be delayed in delivery. He said if an employee requests a mask or a set of gloves, they must be given one. Every employee is also given hand sanitizer to use throughout the day. 

"We're just telling our employees to wear gloves when they deliver. When they take the gloves off to do anything, wash your hands at least 20 seconds. Try not to touch your face. Try not to be in contact with anyone who is infected," he said. 

Asked if the U.S. Postal Service's website, usps.com, would be helpful, Conner said one can go online to request package pickup, so one doesn't have to bring a package to the post office if postage is already on it. One can go there if one wants redelivery of a package whose delivery has been attempted once before. One can also order stamps online. 

Conner warned that more changes could be announced later but he hasn't heard of any yet. Daily safety service talks are coming down from the national office.

"We actually got a mass mailing today (Wednesday) that every person in Jasper, residential or business, should receive today or tomorrow," he said. "It actually came out from the White House. As I was giving them out this morning, I was telling my employees, "This didn't come from me, this didn't come from my boss. It didn't come from the district manager in Alabama. This came from the president, wanting you to get these to each individual resident in your hometown. So you are a public servant." 

He said the mailing explains about the COVID-19 virus, as not everyone has internet or TV. 

"The problem with us is that we are a messenger to the public and we have to be here. We have so many people who get medicine that they have to have through the mail, like insulin."

Conner said officials locally have not seen a decline in volume yet, but they expect it to come because so many plants and businesses have shut down, and some mailers have employees laid off for now. 

He said other postmasters are seeing similar situations in their post offices. "Everyone is pretty much in the same boat," he said. "They're telling us at the post office that if I have a box of gloves I don't need, and another post office needs it, please donate them to them, and so forth and so on."

Conner said if customers do have to come into the post office, please be ready to know what business needs to be done. 

"We're trying to get you through as quick as possible," he said. "We're trying to eliminate having any more than four or five or six people in the lobby at a time. Just try to have your business prepared. Know what you want to do when you walk in so we can expedite it as quick as possible." 

He said postal officials would prefer if people call in with any questions rather than stand in the lobby for several minutes to do that. The Jasper post office number is 205-384-5516.