Some 2,800 United States Postal Services workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, forcing the federal agency to hire replacements and worsening an internal financial crisis that could stamp out the government service.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, said that 4,000 USPS employees have been directly impacted by the virus. On top of the 2,800 confirmed cases, 1,200 workers have unconfirmed cases, Thompson said during a virtual hearing with packaging experts Wednesday afternoon.
Just shy of 70 employees have died amid the pandemic. The number of confirmed cases has shot up 10-fold compared to 259 cases reported in early April. Mail carriers work in close proximity with the public, delivering items to people’s doorsteps daily. The USPS has 630,000 workers.
“Those numbers are very troubling, and I say seriously, they are actually part of our first responders system that we have here in this country,” said Thompson. “When you talk about vote-by-mail, for instance, now guess who’s going to carry the absentee ballot? Who’s going to carry it back to its rightful place? So it’s absolutely important that we have a postal service in place.”