Students and University employees have experienced one of the unfortunate side effects from a District in high alert with slowed mail delivery. Of course, everyone understands that with deadly biological agents traveling around the city and surrounding areas through the postal system, delays will occur. But the U.S. Postal Service should be honest with the nation and with District residents regarding mail delivery and USPS capabilities to fulfill its mission in and around D.C.
For most of the nation, mail service continues normally even if some patrons are understandably nervous when opening letters. The major problems are mostly occurring in the D.C. area, as the city’s main post office on Brentwood Road is closed indefinitely and smaller facilities around the region close sporadically for environmental testing to detect anthrax spores. As facilities close, mail is shuffled to other post offices.
The USPS is having personnel problems, too. Two workers have died of inhalation anthrax. Some reports place the number of postal workers on prophylactic antibiotics as high as 10,000, and some of those employees have avoided work in recent days, which further hinders mail delivery. With so much uncertainty surrounding the region’s postal facilities, an honest appraisal of USPS’s ability to deliver mail is welcomed.
Calming the public is an important responsibility, but other duties exist for government and postal spokesmen. Many District residents have bills to pay that are not arriving and checks that are not being sent in a timely manner — a situation that could cause serious financial headaches. Media organizations have all but ignored the plight of residents by focusing only on the attack’s effects on government agencies. If companies are unaware there is a problem with District mail delivery, they cannot appropriately respond with grace periods or alternative means of bill payment.
The U.S. postal system is not in danger of shutting down or collapsing as a result of these most recent incidents. The USPS should not fundamentally alter how it delivers mail except to increase screening and sanitizing mail, and steps are being taken to institute appropriate measures. But the USPS should be honest with District residents and the nation when assessing its ability to function in and around D.C.
This article appeared in the October 29, 2001 issue of the Hatchet.