Denver public health officials have ordered a United States Postal Service Processing and Distribution Center, which provides mail to all of Colorado and Wyoming, to stop operations — but the center isn’t abiding by local orders.
Denver Department of Public Health and Environment officials investigated the facility on Wednesday, following the state reporting multiple confirmed coronavirus cases among employees who work there.
“The Denver Distribution Center remains open as we sort 10 million pieces of mail a day for every person in CO and WY including medications, stimulus checks, and election materials,” USPS Colorado said in a statement Thursday. “We are meeting all CDC and federal guidelines for COVID-19. USPS is an Essential Service.”
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, called on Postmaster General Megan Brennan on Friday regarding the decision to keep the Denver distribution center open amid coronavirus concerns from local health officials.
“Our USPS is only as strong as the health of dedicated employees allows,” DeGette wrote. “I ask you to work closely with the DDPHE to help resolve this matter in a responsible, public health focused way. Furthermore, I request you provide clarity on how your national and regional offices are working with our nation’s public health departments to ensure that the safety of each employee remains the Postal Service’s top priority.”
According to a letter that was sent by DDPHE officials to the USPS facility, the city's health department wasn’t able to make much progress in its investigation Wednesday “due to the refusal of information and access to the facility,” the letter reads.
“The Denver Processing and Distribution Center is federally owned and operated and is committed to all federal and CDC directives and safeguards in regards to COVID-19 protection,” the USPS statement said. “We have provided Denver Public Health the necessary documentation to satisfy their inquiry and are confident the order will be rescinded.”
The city made an unusually late announcement at nearly 9:30 p.m. Thursday, stating in a news release that Denver public health officials have responded to reports of potential COVID-19 outbreaks at several USPS locations last week and are working with officials to stop the spread.
"In this case, however, the USPS not only failed to provide the necessary information, but they have not allowed inspections to support complete outbreak investigations," officials said in a statement. "It certainly is not our intent to halt the delivery of mail or shut down an essential federal facility. This was a measure of last resort, and the only remaining tool we have to get the facility management’s attention and secure public health compliance during a pandemic."
Nevertheless, the USPS center isn’t backing down.
“We strongly disagree with the Denver Public Health order, which was made without a visual verification, without advanced coordination with the team of postal employees working on these issues with Denver Public Health, and without the understanding of the Postal Service’s substantial, ongoing efforts to protect its employees and the public,” the USPS statement read. “We have provided Denver Public Health the necessary documentation to satisfy their inquiry and are confident the order will be rescinded.”
Denver health officials and the city attorney are “committed to resolving these concerns with federal authorities quickly,” the city said Thursday night.
On Friday, the city said it met with USPS representatives on Friday, and that the meeting "went well."
"Both parties expressed a commitment to working together on outbreak and complaint investigations for COVID-19 as well as broader issues when they arise," city spokesperson Laura Swartz said Friday afternoon. "The city will continue to work with USPS to obtain information about additional cases, whether transmission appears to be ongoing, and to ensure controls are implemented."