- USPS reported largely on-time holiday deliveries after last year's overwhelming flood of packages.
- The Postal Service said it brought on 185,000 staffers and 112 new package-sorting machines.
- But an Omicron wave appears to be spreading among postal workers: 8,000 are in quarantine this week.
The United States Postal Service managed to deliver mail on time this holiday season by enlisting 185,000 new workers. But now, the Omicron variant is spreading among its employees.
The USPS announced Thursday that it saw strong performance from October 1 through Christmas Eve, delivering nearly 90% of parcels on time, a 1.24% improvement over the previous quarter. USPS estimates it will deliver more than 12 billion pieces of mail by New Year's Day.
The Postal Service attributed this year's relatively smooth holiday season to changes it made to the size of its workforce and operations. USPS added 185,000 workers since last year (including 40,000 seasonal workers), installed 112 new package-sorting machines, and added 13 million square feet of space to handle the increased volume of mail and packages.
It's a far cry from last year, when the Postal Service was experiencing a historic volume of deliveries that led to an overflow of parcels and overworked employees. Workers reported at the time that packages were stacked so high, it was difficult to walk around, and parcels were sitting on trucks for several days waiting to be sorted. Some employees reportedly worked 80-hour weeks and were unable to take a day off between Thanksgiving and Christmas in order to keep up with the flood of packages.
The agency was also feeling the affects of capacity limits on airlines and trucks that transported the mail, as well as higher package volumes as other carriers turned customers away. Private firms like FedEx and UPS had warned early on of limited capacity, which meant that retailers had to turn to other avenues to ship their goods — like the Postal Service, which accepts all pieces of mail presented to it.
At the same time, USPS employees were falling ill by the thousands: The American Postal Workers Union said in December 2020 that 19,000 of the Postal Service's 644,000 workers were sick or in isolation due to the coronavirus.
Now, as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the US, Postal Service workers are once again getting sick, the union told the Associated Press' David Sharp on Friday.
Roughly 6,500 postal workers were quarantined due to COVID-19 as of Christmas Eve. This week, that number has grown to 8,000, the AP reported.