USPS lifts mask mandate for fully vaccinated employees amid workforce changes

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.

The agency said all USPS employees must still wear masks in public settings when required by federal, state, local and tribal governments.

USPS first notified employees about lifting its mask mandate on July 16, about two months after the Office of Management and Budget lifted its own mask mandate for fully vaccinated federal employees, contractors and visitors at federal buildings.

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 previewed his plan to put more USPS employees on a career trajectory in March as part of the rollout of a 10-year reform plan. The plan, he added, would help reduce employee turnover, especially during the peak holiday period.

USPS, he said, hired 200,000 temporary workers during last year’s peak holiday season, but those hires never moved the needle on the agency’s overall headcount of available employees.

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.

In addition to its workforce efforts, DeJoy said USPS is ramping up for its holiday planning by acquiring package annexes for processing and installing 138 package processing equipment in USPS facilities.

DeJoy said he expects to “flex up our network” to be able to process, transport and deliver 40 million packages per day during the holiday season,

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