- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Postal workers in the D.C. region, hit harder than anywhere else in the country by the anthrax threat, say customers are praising and thanking them for their work, while also looking at their own mail-handling measures.
Paul Bowman, a letter carrier who serves businesses in Gaithersburg, said he can hardly believe the amount of first-class mail he has seen go into garbage bins unopened.
"They say they've been told if it's addressed to the business, but not to anybody's attention, their orders are to throw it in the trash can," Mr. Bowman said.
He said he is sure some businesses are throwing away payments and other pieces of mail they want or need in the process.
Small-business customers whose habit had been to take deliveries directly in hand are now saying, "'Just put it on the counter,'" he said.
Mr. Bowman wasn't wearing gloves as he delivered mail along his route, but like many postal employees, he had been issued a pair and told to use them at his discretion.
Letter carrier Damita Stiff used her gloves when she opened a mail drop box in an east Rockville neighborhood and peeked inside.
The box looked dusty and rated the gloves, she said, noting that everyone was more wary of what came in the mail since two postal workers from the District's main mail-processing center at Brentwood died of inhalation anthrax this week.
"In a lot of cases, customers are leaving mail in their boxes because they don't know what to expect and I know they are at home because I see them," Ms. Stiff said.
In addition to gloves and masks, postal workers in the District who handled mail that may have been contaminated at Brentwood, where an anthrax-laced letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, was processed, have been issued 10-day supplies of the antibiotic Cipro.
But many D.C. postal workers are angry that they have not been tested for anthrax exposure, and many suburban postal workers who now are handling mail from Brentwood are upset that they have been offered neither testing nor pills.
Late yesterday, Montgomery County's health department stepped in to offer Cipro to workers at the U.S. Postal Service's Gaithersburg plant that was processing much of the Brentwood mail. The county on Tuesday opened a walk-in health-risk assessment center at 2000 Dennis Ave. in Silver Spring to provide counseling and education services to its residents.
Picking up his antibiotics at D.C. General Hospital, letter carrier Melvin White said he appreciates the concern that residents he serves in Columbia Heights have shown for postal workers.
"One lady said, 'We're pulling for you,'" Mr. White said. "We need that."
Andre Spurgeon, a letter carrier who works out of the District's Chillum Place post office in Northwest, said that although he has had to deal with a few customers who refuse to take packages or mail, folks on his route also have shown they care.
"Their first question is how am I doing," he said.
Celestine Moore, a 28-year veteran of the postal service, said it's a tough time for all postal workers, including post office clerks like herself.
"They say we can't wear masks on the window," she said, perhaps so as not to alarm customers.
This week, Ms. Moore said, a woman who had ordered 5,000 prepaid postcards said she did not want them because they probably had been at Brentwood.
"She said she was going to Pennsylvania to get postcards instead," Ms. Moore said.

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