More than 100 Postal Service employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and one of them died after contracting the disease, a union official said.
The number of postal employees who have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus has “been increasing exponentially," according to John Flattery, president of the Central Massachusetts Area chapter Local 4553 of the American Postal Workers Union.
As of Monday, 105 Postal Service employees who work in the agency’s district that includes facilities in Greater Boston, Cape Cod, and Rhode Island, had tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
One employee, John D. Della Paolera Jr., died after contracting the virus. Della Paolera lived in Andover and worked as a Postal Service truck driver in Boston, according to his wife, Joan Della Paolera. After he became ill he was taken by ambulance to Lawrence General Hospital, where he died April 6 at the age of 55. “He was on a ventilator from the day he got there,” she said Tuesday.
In less than two weeks, the number of positive cases among postal workers across the country has nearly tripled. On April 8, Postal Service spokesman Steve Doherty said 427 out of approximately 630,000 postal workers had tested positive for COVID-19; by April 20, the number had gone up to 1,219. Doherty declined to discuss the number of local workers hit by the virus.
More than 30 postal employees around the country have died from the virus, according to Fredric V. Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers. “Our members have been truly heroic during this pandemic,” he said in a statement on the union’s website.
Flattery said the Postal Service has taken steps to protect workers. He said new cleaning procedures and social distancing policies have been put in place, “cough shields” have been installed at post offices to protect clerks, and employees are being provided masks, gloves, and sanitizer.
“Everything is being wiped down constantly,” Flattery said.
Mike Rakes, the Postal Service district manager for Greater Boston, said in a letter to the editor of the Globe earlier this month that for deliveries requiring a signature, mail carriers will knock rather than touch doorbells, and they’ll ask the resident to confirm their name rather than having them sign anything. Then they will leave the package in a spot where the resident can easily retrieve it.
Flattery credited the agency with taking the necessary precautions to make sure employees are safe on the job. Of course, the uptick in positive cases of COVID-19 remains a concern.
“Everyone is a little on edge,” Flattery said. “I imagine people who work in grocery stores are feeling the same way."