TUPELO • Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor the novel coronavirus will keep U.S. Postal Service carriers from doing their jobs.
“Everything related to COVID-19 has changed lives and our daily routines, but we haven’t changed what we do,” said Tina Pate, Tupelo’s postmaster. “We’re proud of our role of providing an essential service to the community.”
With more people ordering online and stocking up on essentials, the number of packages being delivered to homes has skyrocketed.
“The volume of packages has increased 60% over the same period last year,” Pate said. “The numbers are reaching what we normally see at Christmas.”
Pate said the numbers began to rise as soon as the pandemic hit the U.S., but this past week, the volume has seen a significant increase in Tupelo.
“I think that could have to do with people receiving their stimulus checks,” she said.
Pate said USPS is adding employees statewide to handle the volume and in Tupelo, she’s been able to hire two carriers and two clerks temporarily.
“We haven’t increased our retail hours but we’ve increased delivery hours because we’ve had to deliver more packages,” she said. “No USPS employee has been laid off or furloughed.”
Safety has always been a top priority of the post office, Pate said, and the coronavirus has heightened that.
“We’ve adopted delivery procedures to promote social distancing,” she said. “If a letter or package needs a signature, the carrier knocks on the door, rather than touching the doorbell, then steps back. The customer doesn’t actually sign for the package – the carrier does that for them. And then the customer is asked to refrain from taking the package until the carrier leaves.”
Masks, gloves and hand sanitizer are made available for all employees and frequent hand-washing is encouraged.
Pate said several carriers have told her that customers have left them chocolates or personal notes. One received flowers and several children have drawn pictures for their carriers as a way of saying thank you.
“Our carriers are basically first-responders,” Pate said. “They are delivering medicine and other essential packages. We want our customers to know they can count on us.”