The Postal Service, in a policy decision months behind the rest of the federal workforce, will no longer require employees and contractors who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to wear a mask.
USPS, in an online message posted Monday, said employees and contractors are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The agency said employees who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must still wear a mask in situations where they can’t maintain a six-foot distance from other employees. However, the agency said it will not require any employee to provide proof of vaccination.
“The Postal Service does not require supporting verification of COVID-19 vaccination status, and managers and supervisors should not request this information,” the agency wrote in its announcement.
Deputy Postmaster General and Chief Human Resources Officer Doug Tulino, in the July 16 memo to employees, said USPS notified postal union leadership about the change in policy, and would circulate stand-up talks for managers and supervisors to help announce the new policy.
USPS has faced significant workforce shortages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said employees across 30,000 locations are coming back to work in higher numbers every day and “helping speed the return to normalcy” as COVID-19 vaccination rates improve.
Ahead of its year-end peak holiday operations, DeJoy recently told employees in a video message that he plans to hire 40,000 seasonal workers and convert 33,000 non-career employees to career status. He said the agency hires, on average, about 10,000 new employees each month.
“We want to ensure that we have every available current employee in place. Your presence is important during the crucial peak timeframe. We will need all hands on deck,” DeJoy said.
DeJoy said the record-breaking 1.1 billion packages USPS handled during last year’s peak holiday season “substantially surpassed” its processing capacity. He said poor performance during this period was linked to a lack of space in USPS facilities to store packages, a lack of sorting equipment, a “restricted and poor-performing transportation network” and low employee availability.
“While our commitment to our mission was significant last peak season, our efforts could not overcome the challenging circumstances we faced. The service we provided the American people suffered as a result,” DeJoy said.