I'm a mailman for USPS who's delivered hundreds of COVID-19 tests in one day. Here's what the job is like right now.
- Insider spoke to a United States
Postal Servicemail carrier about delivering at-home COVID tests.
- They requested anonymity to protect their job, and Insider has verified their employment.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a
I've worked as a USPS letter carrier in Illinois for the past 15 years.
Ever since COVID, we've been short-staffed. There are people at my job I haven't seen in nearly two years because they have pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable to infection and can't
But while the number of workers may have decreased, the workload certainly hasn't, so it's up to the rest of us to compensate. There's really no cap on overtime since the pandemic hit, so if I'm past eight hours but still have deliveries to make, I just keep on going. At times, it can be exhausting and plenty of people experience burnout but the way I see it, the more work that comes in, the more job security we have.
One morning in late January I arrived at work expecting it to be like any other day. But on this particular morning, I was greeted by piles of now-familiar padded mailers containing free at-home rapid COVID tests.
Initially, I'd heard about the free rapid at-home COVID tests being made available upon request through The White House from a customer on my route. I was delivering his mail one day when he turned to me and said, "So, how are you guys going to handle all those test kits?"
I hadn't been following the news closely so my immediate thought was: Are we the people who are going to be delivering all those tests?
It didn't take long for me to get my answer. The day after it had already hit the news and been made public, management officially told all personnel we'd be delivering the at-home kits and issued a warning that we should prepare to get slammed.
Keep in mind this was right after our peak holiday season when we usually slow down. Instead, we had to pivot right into delivering millions of test kits.
We were never given an estimate as to how many tests we'd be delivering (no one seemed to know), but management did inform us the tests would be marked First Class or Priority Mail depending on the state. According to the USPS, it takes 1.2 days on average to deliver a test kit package once it has been received from the manufacturer, kitted, and entered into the mail stream. As of March 2, we've delivered over 68 million COVID-19 test kit packages with four tests per kit.
Some days I'd get less than 50 tests to deliver while other days there'd be closer to 100
The amounts vary depending on the day and delivery route. To date, the most I've had to deliver was on February 22, the Tuesday right after President's Day. Since it was our first day back after the holiday, I had close to 250 packages to deliver in addition to regular mail and the majority of them were the
According to USPS, we delivered over six million COVID-19 test kits package that day alone, which is the highest single-day volume delivered since shipping began at the end of January.
Typically, I work an eight-hour day but that day I worked for 11 hours — and I'm very fast at my job. It was insane.
But no matter how long it takes me out there, I always get the job done. Not to mention that if a carrier brings mail back after their shift that they weren't able to deliver, they will be disciplined. In this climate, with so many absent carriers these days, you might receive a written warning rather than be disciplined, but either way, it's not a position I've ever been in or want to be in. Plus if you bring back undelivered mail, you'll only have to take it out again and deliver it with the next day's load.
The only exception is if weather conditions become unsafe, we carriers may be instructed to return to the mail station.
While there's no telling how many to expect on any given day, I believe we may have already peaked in terms of our deliveries, at least here in Illinois where the state's mask mandate was lifted on February 28, 2022 for restaurants, bars, and gyms. I've definitely seen the number of deliveries drop on my route.
A lot of people complain about mail carriers but they have no idea what we go through to bring them their mail, especially now
If you have the same carrier regularly these days, you don't know how fortunate you are. It's not an easy life and COVID has only made things more difficult.
Those of us on the job are responsible to make up the routes for anyone who's out. When you see a random carrier on your route, chances are they're working overtime.
Even the letter carrier who has been delivering mail to my own house for the past 20 years just disappeared. I don't know if she retired or got sick or what. All I know is that she's gone and now my mail gets delivered at different times and is often just tossed onto my porch.
I ordered my own free COVID test kit back in January and it just arrived last week. I'm sure whoever delivered it to my house complained about having to deliver it.
To me, it's all just work. I don't view it negatively. Like I said, the influx of packages is job security for me and the other carriers even if they all don't see it that way.
When I grab a COVID test kit mailer from my truck and hand it to a customer and say "your test kit is here," they smile and say "it finally came."
They're happy, I'm happy, and then just like that, I jump back into my truck and am off to the next house.
- India's GDP growth surges to 8.4% in Q3, 2023-24 growth rate pegged at robust 7.6%
- Fiscal deficit at Jan-end touches 63.6% of full year target: Govt data
- Cabinet approves 3 semiconductor fab units, to generate 80,000 jobs
- RIL shares climb nearly 1% after announcing mega merger
- Key infra sectors' growth slows to 15-month low of 3.6% in January