On Sunday, March 22, WEWS News Channel 5 reported that a “Beachwood mail carrier” tested positive for COVID-19. We researched this story back to the original press release from the USPS. We spoke with the Postmaster of the Beachwood Post Office. We spoke with high-level media officers for the USPS. We spoke with Sen. Brown’s office. And we spoke with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. There are several facts we can now state.
According to the official press release, the person was identified as a “Beachwood Post Office employee.” There is no indication the employee was a mail carrier. Also, the inference that this person was a carrier in Beachwood is not necessarily accurate. The Beachwood Post Office delivers to all or part of: Beachwood, Highland Hills, Orange, Shaker Heights, University Heights, Warrensville Heights and Woodmere. Even if this person were a mail carrier, there is no way to know what city he/she actually delivered to and there is no proof that it was Beachwood.
Under Postal Regulations, there are employee privacy laws. The USPS will not reveal a carrier’s route or any private health information. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, HIPPA laws prevent the release of any health information that would identify the individual. There is no way to obtain this information. No local, state or federal agency will give this information to our City government.
By all standards, neither the USPS nor the Cuyahoga County Board of Health consider this Beachwood Post Office employee a “community health crisis.”
According to the Board of Health, when there is a positive result for coronavirus, their team of epidemiologists works with the patient to trace others with whom the patient has been in close contact. According to our conversation with the Board of Health, and not relating to any knowledge they have of this specific person, the following people would be considered close contacts: workplace associates, family members and anyone who recently spent extended time with the individual (such as by traveling together). The Board of Health then notifies these close contacts of their possible exposure to COVID-19.
The Board of Health has advised that, even if this person were a letter carrier, the probability of this person transmitting the virus by walking into a building to leave mail, or leaving mail at a residence, is virtually non-existent.
In summary: we do not know if this was a mail carrier. If they were, we do not know if they delivered in Beachwood or any other 44122 cities. The information about the route or the employee will not be released due to HIPPA and Postal Regulations and cannot be forced through government agencies. The USPS has advised the public that you cannot get COVID-19 through touching mail or packages. The Board of Health would not consider the casual contact of a mail carrier close enough to require the notification of everyone on a route. Both the CDC and the World Health Organization have indicated that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can spread through the mail. In addition, both the Surgeon General and the Director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases have indicated that there is currently no evidence that the coronavirus is being spread through the mail.
Let’s focus on the life-and-death decisions we make every day to keep us healthy. There has been one positive test in Beachwood and it is inevitable that there will be more. Stay at home as much as possible. Practice social distancing if you must go out. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Wipe down counters, doorknobs and frequently touched surfaces with Clorox or similar wipes. Please follow the recommendations of our state government and our scientists. Stay healthy Beachwood.