Washington postal workers push for vaccine after outbreak in Kent facility
Washington state’s postal workers are pushing to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine alongside other frontline essential workers, following a recent breakout of the virus at a mail processing facility in Kent.
The Kent facility had 34 of its 160 workers test positive for COVID-19 over the last two weeks, with “an additional number off work in quarantine status,” according to a notice from the local union. Across the entire Seattle postal district, 242 total USPS workers have tested positive for the virus over that same period.
That has local union representative David Yao calling on the Washington State Department of Health to move postal workers up into a higher tier for vaccinations.
“A lot of postal workers are older but they haven’t gotten vaccinations, and for some reason, postal workers are not classified with grocery workers and transit workers as frontline essential workers,” Yao told KIRO Radio.
He cites the fact that postal workers are operating as a “lifeline to get goods to people who don’t want to leave their houses because of COVID” as the driving reason behind this push. He also points out that other facilities across the United States have seen similar outbreaks.
“Across the nation, there have been severe backups because some postal facilities have had to shut down because there are so many infections,” Yao said.
According to the union, “tens of thousands” of USPS workers across the nation have either been infected, quarantined, or exposed to COVID-19 since the start of pandemic, 150 of whom have died.
Washington state is currently in Phase 1B, tier 1, of vaccine distribution, which includes all people over the age of 65, and those over 50 in multi-generational households. The state’s postal workers are hoping to be vaccinated in the latter tiers of Phase 1B, which already includes high-risk critical workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, schools, corrections, public transit, fire, and law enforcement.
“While we appreciate the gratitude we have received from the public, we urge Governor Jay Inslee to honor our heroic postal workers who have worked in such hazardous conditions with no hazard pay from the federal government,” USPS worker Virgilio Goze said in a written release.