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After 2 employees test positive for coronavirus, Maryland postal workers urge more protection

Two more USPS employees in Prince George's County, Maryland have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a spokesman.

HYATTSVILLE, Md. — Six weeks after state governors started shutting things down and initiating stay at home orders, many federal employees still report they're not getting the proper personal protective equipment PPE they need to keep them safe.

Many of those federal workers continuously face struggles to adjust during the coronavirus pandemic, including U.S. Postal Service employees who must remain in operation. 

Another major reason for certain federal employees to be concerned is that coronavirus more severely affects African-Americans and people of color, according to health experts. In Baltimore, two USPS employees tested positive for the virus in early April -- but April 15, 11 USPS employees tested positive in Baltimore facilities.

Roughly 25 percent of Maryland's coronavirus cases are in Prince George's County, an area of predominantly minority residents. Much of the Postal Service workforce in Prince George's County includes African-American employees. 

USPS employee Zebulon Clayton says she has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years. She works inside the main Hyattsville Post Office in Prince George's County.

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Clayton said she had to beg for personal protective equipment while working.

"Why should I have to beg somebody to give me gloves and give me face masks?" USPS employee Zebulon Clayton said, fighting back tears. "Why do I have to beg for it. Why is that right?"

Her tenure at the post office has seen difficult times before -- but for Clayton, this new reality is worse.

"I went through anthrax," she said. "It's even worse this time,"  

She is referring to the anthrax mailing attacks that occurred shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Five people died and seventeen got sick after a suspect sent mail tainted with anthrax. 

Clayton says her constant requests for proper PPE to protect against coronavirus have been denied, and she characterized the assistance she is receiving from USPS as "none to nothing."

A mail carrier in Southeast D.C. spoke with WUSA9 several weeks ago, telling a similiar story: working in a crowded mail sorting room where he had to provide his own mask and his own disinfecting wipes.

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Did Clayton feel at risk by going to work?

"No question," she said. "I broke down crying this morning because of the stress. One of my employees caught the coronavirus."

USPS spokesman Michael Hotovy confirmed that two Hyattsville Postal employees are positive for COVID-19 -- one at the Langley Park Post Office and another at the Landover Post Office. Hotovy says those locations have gone through "multiple sanitization processes and inspections."

Credit: WUSA9
Full statement from USPS to WUSA9

Clayton says the cleaning at her facility in Hyattsville has been irregular. 

"Even just having the unit cleaned properly. They said they're supposed to come in every day and disinfect our area before the customers arrive. We don't have that," Clayton said. "The cleaning person comes in the afternoon. Randomly. Sometimes he doesn't even show up."

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has ordered state residents to wear masks inside public areas. Businesses are turning away people without them. Another Prince George's County Postal employee reported management instructed them they could not deny service to any customer not wearing a mask.

"The safety and well-being of our employees remains our highest priority as we continue normal operations during this unprecedented time," said Hotovy in an email statement provided to WUSA9.

But Clayton disagrees. When asked what message she would deliver to Postmaster General Megan Brennan, she said she wants to feel safe.

"You're not protecting us, you're not," Clayton said. "We're afraid every day we come into this parking lot. I'm afraid to go into that building."

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