HUDSON — The U.S. Postal Service says two employees of the Ravenna Street post office have tested positive for COVID-19. The employees and the facility’s response were the subject of a July 10 complaint to Summit County Public Health alleging that proper procedures to protect employees and the public were not taken.
An employee at the Hudson post office referred questions to Naddia Dhalai, a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service’s Northern Ohio District and Ohio Valley District.
"The U.S. Postal Service has learned that two Hudson Post Office employees tested positive for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)," Dhalai confirmed in an email Thursday.
Dhalai declined to provide additional information about the employees, citing medical privacy laws, and did not address other questions regarding the situation.
"The safety and well-being of our employees is our highest priority," she wrote. "To ensure the health of our employees, we are continuing to follow recommended guidance and strategies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
The complaint by an unnamed person to Summit County Public Health alleges that proper procedures were not followed.
"Despite multiple employees testing positive for Covid this week, the Hudson Post Office has discouraged said staff members from going home sick, even though said employees later tested positive for Covid," the complaint states.
"This post office has not had other staff members tested for Covid even though these employees were in direct contact with the employees who later tested positive," the complaint also stated.
"In addition, there has been no professional cleaning of the facility, just random cleaning with Clorox wipes by some part-time employees. This is a busy facility that has the potential to easily spread the disease to the entire Hudson population, never mind to all of the employees, their contacts, and their families as well."
Elizabeth Foster, epidemiology and data surveillance supervisor with Summit County Public Health, said Thursday that the county cannot enforce any rules at U.S. Government facilities.
"We have no jurisdiction over them because they’re a federal building," she said. "We’ve made contact with them and let them know about the complaint, but there’s really nothing we can do in terms of, like, going out and enforcing anything."
In a followup email to Dhalai, the Hudson Hub-Times asked the following:
— Were staffers who felt sick discouraged from going home?
— Were staff members who had been in contact with the positive-tested employees also tested?
— What steps were taken to clean the facility after it was discovered employees had tested positive? Was a cleaning service called in?
"The safety and wellness of our employees are important to us and we’ll continue to follow the strategies and measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," Dhalai responded. "Employees have received multiple standup talks about keeping themselves and others safe and are certainly encouraged to stay home when sick. Due to the Privacy Act, we cannot share information about testing.
"USPS cleaning policies are consistent with CDC guidelines. We are proud of our employees working during these challenging times to serve our customers."
Dhalai wrote that nationwide, the postal service is
— Updating leave policies to allow liberal use of leave and to therefore give employees the ability to stay home whenever they feel sick, must provide dependent care, or wish to abide by state or local shelter-in-place requirements.
— Updating cleaning policies to ensure that all cleaning occurs in a manner consistent with CDC guidance relating to this pandemic.
In addition, Dhalai said USPS is "working to overcome the challenges in the supply chain" to provide hand sanitizer, masks and gloves on request, as well as taking steps to ensure social distancing, communicating with employees daily with "the latest information and guidance," and moving employees who can work remotely away from facilities.
Foster said Summit County Public provided "technical assistance" to post offices around the county in March and April, giving advice in such areas as social distancing and signs.
"Those [post offices] were all over," she said. "There was probably one per each jurisdiction in Summit County."
She said that except for the July 10 complaint, the health department did not know of any alleged issues at any other post offices in the county.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.