DENVER – A U.S. Postal Service facility that handles mail for all of Colorado and Wyoming was closed Thursday by the City of Denver due to an outbreak of the novel coronavirus inside its premises.
At least five workers at the facility are confirmed to have contracted the new virus.
The order to close comes a day after the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) visited the distribution facility. During that visit, "minimal observations" were made by city health investigators, who alleged the distribution center did not grant them full access and refused to provide vital information during their visit to the site.
"The area the investigators were able to make observations from was a small public-facing space in comparison to the entire distribution warehouse buildings," Denver officials said Thursday. "In the general public post station, with three employees assisting customers with proper face coverings and plastic curtains separating each employee check-out station."
In their Public Health Order notice, city officials said the distribution facility must meet the following requirements before they're allowed to operate:
- The facility must be completely disinfected with an approved COVID-19 disinfectant.
- Measures to control the spread of COVID-19 must be implemented.
- Plans and procedures for how the distribution center will implement COVID-19 control measures must be submitted to the DDPHE in writing.
City officials said even after all that's done, approval for reopening will only be granted by a DDPHE representative.
"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," a USPS Colorado spokesperson said in response.
The spokesperson also argued that shutting down the distribution center could impact the delivery of "stimulus checks, prescription medications, personal correspondence, and vital goods" to a combined population of 6.5 million people in both Colorado and Wyoming.
"We are meeting all CDC and federal guidelines for COVID-19. USPS is an Essential Service," the USPS Colorado official said in a tweet.
A USPS spokesperson said they plan to remain open despite the order.
In a statement late Thursday evening, Denver's Joint Information Center said the order to close the facility is a last resort for the city "to get the facility management's attention and secure public health compliance during a pandemic."
"It certainly is not our intent to halt the delivery of mail or shut down an essential federal facility," a JIC spokesperson said in the statement. "DDPHE and the City Attorney are committed to resolving these concerns with federal authorities quickly."
This story was originally published by Óscar Contreras on KMGH in Denver.