- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Postal officials do not expect mail to be delayed because of the threat from anthrax-contaminated letters, even though some post offices and mail-processing centers have shut down temporarily.
Postal Service Chief Operations Officer Patrick R. Donahoe said yesterday mail-handling procedures have not changed significantly since letters with anthrax were mailed to media companies and to Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
The U.S. Postal Service has said it will create a task force to review mail security safeguards, but it doesn't see the need for wholesale changes and believes the current threat from anthrax-laden letters is unlikely to hold up delivery of most mail.
"We will keep our record of on-time delivery," said Mr. Donahoe, who was appointed chief operations officer Sept. 7.
The Postal Service delivers 680 million pieces of mail daily.
Business groups are expecting the Postal Service to keep up with mail delivery, despite the anthrax scare.
"We don't expect significant delays in mail," said Robert McLean, executive director of the Mailers Council, a Washington-based coalition of large corporations and mailing associations that account for an estimated 70 percent of the Postal Service's domestic mail volume.
Packages and oddly shaped mail are the only pieces of mail likely to be delayed, Mr. McLean said.
Mr. Donahoe said postal workers have been instructed to look out for and set aside mail that may be misshapen or heavily taped.
Rick Merritt, president of PostalWatch, a Virginia Beach group, credited the Postal Service with reacting correctly to the anthrax threat.
"I think in general the Postal Service's response has been appropriate," he said.
The presence of anthrax has been confirmed in just one post office to date. A small amount of anthrax spores were found in a mail-processing area of a Boca Raton, Fla., post office, Mr. Donahoe said. There is no indication the spores posed a health risk to workers or visitors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The affected area, which is not open to the public, was closed Monday and reopened yesterday.
Some other facilities have shut down temporarily, including post offices in New Haven, Conn., and Thomaston, Maine.
"Even when we have had shutdowns, it has resulted in very minor delays. We have the ability to get back online very quickly," Mr. Donahoe said.
The American Postal Workers Union is urging its 366,000 members to be cautious. Workers in postal facilities throughout the country were allowed to wear gloves for protection.
The health and safety of postal workers is the union's top priority, American Postal Workers Union spokesman Tom Fahey said.


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