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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

US Postal Service wants waiver from federal vaccine requirement

By Azi Paybarah

The U.S. Postal Service says it wants an exemption to the federal vaccine-or-test mandate because it could hinder its ability to deliver the mail.

“The Postal Service is seeking temporary relief because it wants to ensure that its ability to deliver mail and packages is not hindered amid the current disruptions in the nation’s supply chain,” Darlene Casey, an agency spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday.

In November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency order requiring that organizations with more than 100 employees require their workers to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly and subjected to stricter face covering requirements.

The Postal Service formally requested a variance from that order in a letter to OSHA dated Tuesday.

“We are now in the middle of our peak season (mid-October through January), which is our busiest and most challenging time of year,” Deputy Postmaster General Doug A. Tulino wrote in the letter, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times. “The American people are relying on us to timely deliver their mail and packages throughout the holiday season — which aren’t limited to holiday packages but include critical items like Treasury checks, COVID-19 tests and pharmaceuticals.”

He added that the mandate was “likely to result in the loss of many employees” just when they are needed most. Such a loss “would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service to the American public when demand is at its highest,” Tulino wrote.

The Postal Service requires all employees and contractors “who interact with the public” to wear face coverings “when there is a state, local or tribal directive in place that requires face coverings to be worn,” Tulino wrote. Face coverings are also required for employees and contractors who cannot maintain social distancing, he wrote.

Those policies apply regardless of a person’s vaccination status, he said.

In the past 18 months, the Postal Service has received “only a handful of citations” related to pandemic restrictions, which, Tulino wrote, “illustrates that the Postal Service’s established COVID-19 mitigation measures have been extremely successful to date.”

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