BERKELEY (CBS SF) — Quarantining workers have reportedly left post offices in the Berkeley/Albany area without enough staff to fully operate, adding to ongoing service woes including a budget crisis and operational changes brought on by White House efforts to consolidate control of the service.
According to a report from Berkeleyside, eight post offices are short-staffed after two workers tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-July and their co-workers self-quarantined.
Another worker based in Oakland who delivered mail to Berkeley died from complications related to COVID-19, Berkeleyside reported.
“Berkeley has never been impacted like this,” one postal worker who has quarantined at home for about two weeks told Berkeleyside. “We have never had such a shortage of clerks and customers aren’t being told what is going on.”
The postal worker shortages in the Berkeley/Albany area come as the embattled service is facing what could be a flood of extra mail-in ballots for the November election.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and union officials said the U.S. Postal Service is considering closing post offices across the country, sparking concerns ahead of the November election because of the increased interest in mail-in balloting.
Manchin said he has received numerous reports from post offices and colleagues about service cuts or looming closures in West Virginia and elsewhere, prompting him to send a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy requesting an explanation.
The possible downsizing comes as DeJoy moves to eliminate overtime for hundreds of thousands of postal workers, potentially causing a delay in deliveries.
The coronavirus pandemic has created further strain on Postal Service finances. The service reported a $4.5 billion loss for the quarter ending in March, before the full effects of the shutdown sank in.
“So we are very concerned, and we want the public to be aware,” says Mark Dimondstein, President of the American Postal Workers Union. “This is already starting to affect mail and packages.”