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Denver post office stays open despite public health order demanding that it close

The United States Postal Service says it disagrees with the public health order and will follow federal directives instead.

DENVER — A post office in Denver where at least two employees have tested positive for COVID-19 is defying an order issued by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) to shut down temporarily. 

Inspectors from DDPHE found employees at the post office at 3800 Buchtel Blvd in Denver weren’t wearing the proper masks, social distancing guidelines weren’t being followed and proper disinfecting techniques weren’t used. 

While the health department demands that the post office location close its doors temporarily, the United States Postal Service (USPS) says it will instead follow federal and CDC directives and stay open.

"The University Park Station is federally owned and operated and is committed to all federal and CDC directives and safeguards in regards to COVID-19 protection," USPS wrote in a statement. "While we appreciate the work that Denver Public Health and other agencies are doing surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we disagree with the Public Health order and we are actively engaged in discussions with the city to address their concerns."

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DDPHE received two complaints from what it believes to be customers at the post office location near Colorado Blvd and Evans in the past two weeks alleging proper public health guidelines were not being followed. 

Inspectors visited the facility Thursday and said they found that about 60% of the employees weren't wearing masks or were wearing them incorrectly, no procedures were in place for social distancing, no employees entering or exiting were screened for the virus and the facility wasn't sanitizing properly. The order issued Thursday afternoon demanded the post office close its doors immediately.

Friday, the post office location opened once again, defying the order issued by DDPHE. 

DDPHE does not yet know if the two employees that tested positive for COVID-19 were at work while sick, but is investigating. 

The postal service said it has changed it’s cleaning policies during the pandemic and says proper personal protective equipment is available to all employees. 

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Though the postal service said it’s unlikely that COVID-19 is spread through the mail, 9Health expert Dr. Payal Kohli said we don’t really know how long the virus can live on paper.

"Because the mail comes into every person’s home, it’s especially important for a post office to really be doing that frequent sanitizing, cleaning the surfaces, and wiping everything down," said Kohli. "When you touch the mail, you should very carefully wash your hands for at least 20 seconds afterward."

Below is the list of observations made by CDPHE during the visit by inspectors to the facility on May 14. 

No signage observed posted about requiring masks to be worn in the facility.

Approximately 60% of the employees, including the supervisor, were observed working inside the facility with no masks on the face, or masks being worn incorrectly so they did not cover the nose and mouth.

No procedures or floor marking were observed for staff to social distance while working. The break room was set up with no social distancing guidance.

No employee screening was taking place upon entry or exit of facility. Investigators were allowed into the back area of the facility with no screening or screening questions being asked.

No sanitizing of the facility with an approved disinfecting agent was observed or provided during the inspection. Per the supervisor, the janitor has not modified his cleaning routine since COVID-19 cases in the facility were reported.

Below is a list of the actions USPS says it is taking to keep employees safe:

Ensuring millions of masks, gloves and cleaning and sanitizing product are available and distributed to more than 30,000 locations every day through our Postal Service supply chain. Personal Protective Gear is available to all employees at University Park Station.

Reinforcing workplace behaviors to ensure that contact among our employees and with our customers reflects the best guidance regarding healthy interactions, social distancing, and risk minimization.  We have implemented measures at all retail facilities and mail processing facilities to ensure appropriate social distancing, including through signage, floor tape, and “cough/sneeze” barriers. 

We have changed delivery procedures to eliminate the requirement that customers sign our Mobile Delivery Devices for delivery.  For increased safety, employees will politely ask the customer to step back a safe distance or close the screen door/door so that they may leave the item in the mail receptacle or appropriate location by the customer door.

Updated our cleaning policies to ensure that all cleaning occurs in a manner consistent with CDC guidance relating to this pandemic.

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