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This postal plant has at least 24 COVID cases. OSHA is investigating

Updated October 7, 2020 - 10:00 am

After a surge of reported COVID-19 cases, federal workplace-safety inspectors are investigating the central U.S. Post Office processing plant in Las Vegas, which sorts all of Southern Nevada’s outgoing mail.

The plant as of Friday had seen about 24 positive COVID-19 cases among workers within a span of about four weeks, the Review-Journal previously reported. The plant is located at 1001 E. Sunset Road.

A U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson on Tuesday confirmed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had opened an investigation on the plant following Review-Journal inquiries.

Seven of the 24 cases reported as of Friday were announced among workers last Wednesday. Two were announced Friday. The workers affected included clerks and mail handlers as well as management and maintenance staff, but did not include letter carriers, according to Chris Washington, president of the local American Postal Workers Union.

The entire second floor of the building was also shut down Friday, and administrative staff were instructed to work from home.

One complaint since March

The Department of Labor spokesperson on Monday said that as of March 1, one OSHA complaint had been filed against the plant. The complaint was filed March 31 and was related to COVID-19.

“A satisfactory response from the employer was received on April 2, 2020, and the complaint was closed,” the spokesman said in a Monday statement. “No other enforcement activity has been documented at this time.”

The new investigation confirmed Tuesday followed Review-Journal reporting.

It’s unclear how many employees work at the valley’s central processing plant. Washington said about 75 people work a morning shift, more than 100 work an evening shift and about 15 work overnight each day. But that does not include management or maintenance workers.

It’s also unclear if any of the employees who have tested positive have been hospitalized or have died.

Glenn Norton, president of the local National Association of Letter Carriers branch, said about 30 letter carriers work at the plant. He is not aware of any who have tested positive. He noted letter carriers are in the building only for a short time each day and spend the bulk of their shifts delivering mail.

No significant delays

With an expanded mail-in election already underway in parts of the state, the sudden surge in COVID-19 cases as of Friday had not resulted in significant mail-processing delays, Washington had said. Part of that is because a handful of sorting machines that had been shut down have since been brought back online.

Washington also said the plant is operating with “peak season” help, which means more seasonal employees are working at the plant.

But moving forward, if cases continue to rise, Washington said staffing is “definitely a concern.”

COVID-19 is mainly thought to spread through respiratory droplets, with most infections happening when people are in close contact with someone who has the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products or packaging,” according to the agency’s website.

The CDC advises that people wash their hands after accepting deliveries or collecting mail.

Rachel Crosby is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing. Contact her at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter. Subscribe here to support our work.

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