Postal workers included in next phase of Alaska’s vaccine distribution program
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - On Thursday, the state detailed what will be known as phase 1b of its effort to inoculate Alaska against COVID-19.
The news that postal workers have been included in the short list of “frontline essential workers” was positive news for Jim Raymond, president of the Anchorage chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers.
“Our organization has been pushing to have postal workers up at the front, to get the vaccine right away,” he said. “We have not skipped a beat. We have been on the front line since day one.”
The highest priority postal workers listed in phase 1b are those who are ages 50 and up. In another tier, ranked further down the state’s list of eligible vaccine recipients, are all other postal workers. Specifically, the state describes its target group as those “whose work-related duties must be performed on-site and involve being in close proximity (<6 feet) to the public or to coworkers.”
According to Raymond, local postal workers fared very well in the early stages of the pandemic and he and his colleagues were able to steer clear of the virus for the most part. Today, he says each of the local postal units has had workers test positive with the virus.
One of the first letter carriers to contract COVID-19 ended up on a ventilator. They later retired, rather than return to work and continue to face the risks posed by the pandemic.
“They are working 100 hours a week, and they’re touching everybody. Every house, every business ... the chances of them coming into contact with the COVID-19 virus is very high,” Raymond said.
While the vaccine is not mandatory, those mail carriers that do receive it will add another layer of protection to the strict rules and protocols that are already in effect.
Last week, the union lost its first member; according to Raymond, it was a retired letter carrier from Mississippi.
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