Protect your postie: Why Canadians are propping mail boxes open
TORONTO -- Some Canadians are propping open their mail boxes in an effort to do more to help protect mail carriers still on the job amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
London, Ont. resident Melanie Edwards took to Facebook on Thursday to share a photo of her mail box propped open by a stick.
"Hey guys my hubby is out delivering mail still. He told me some people are propping mailboxes open with sticks so mail people don’t have to touch the mailbox," read the post. "If everyone could find a way to do this that would be great to help keep all the mail men and women safe! Spread the word."
Melanie Edwards said in a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca that she worries about her husband Shawn contracting the virus while out on the job.
"It's always in the back of our minds that, as much as we’re being isolated, we're still not 100 per cent safe… There's always a chance he could be bringing it into the house," Melanie said.
"When my husband told me that a couple people have done this for him already… I immediately went out and did it to our mail box and put it on Facebook for other people to know about it," she added.
Shawn Edwards, who has been working at Canada Post for over two years, told CTVNews.ca that he has seen an increase in propped open mail boxes on his route over the last couple weeks and even more so since his wife posted about it.
"It does feel safer, but it's more of a nice thing of the community coming together to help out," Shawn said. "We understand it is a weather-dependent courtesy, but it's nice to see everyone doing a little bit to help."
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19 can live on cardboard for approximately 24 hours. The study reported that the lifespan of COVID-19 on paper varies for a few hours or up to several days. The novel coronavirus was able to live on a copper surface for up to four hours after being applied and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) warns that products shipped within or from outside Canada could be contaminated but says the risk of being infected from touching the mail is low. The CDC also claims the U.S. has not seen any cases of COVID-19 associated with imported goods but says surface transmission is a possibility.
Last week, the union representing Canada Post employees asked Canadians to disinfect their mail boxes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) says daily washing and disinfecting of letter boxes, along with handrails and door knobs, will help keep mail carriers safe.
Shawn said that even though there is only a small percentage of mail boxes on his route being left open, he says it does feel safer than disinfecting the boxes because he does not have to touch them.
Shawn said his depot has also introduced new sanitizing protocols to ensure the safety of its employees including the cleaning of keys, vehicles, and mail carts. However, he says this has "only ramped up in the last 4 to 5 working days."
In a telephone interview with CTVNews.ca, CUPW President Jan Simpson said Local Joint Health and Safety Committees, comprising union members and management staff, are conducting "daily inspections to ensure preventative measure across the country are being followed."
Simpson said leaving one's letter box propped open is a small gesture that can go a long way for postal workers.
"This is a great initiative to do so that carriers don't have to touch the letter box at all and we really appreciate that for our employees," Simpson said.
Melanie Edwards said, since posting about her open mail box, she has seen other people taking to social media to share their own pictures to spread the word.
"It's so surprising to see something that I put up go so big but it’s great because it's about helping others," Melanie said. "It's nice to see so much support."
In addition to propping open mail boxes, some Canadians are also posting kind messages in their windows and leaving out water and snacks for their letter carriers.
"A lot of postal workers deliver the mail in areas they live and usually talk to the people on their route," Simpson said. "Because of physical distancing, that is no longer the case but these acts are great ways to stay in touch with one another during this time."
However, Melanie said that she has also seen some backlash. Some Facebook users pointed out that while the move better protects Canada Post employees, they said it doesn't do enough for its customers.
Canada Post announced in March that it will be reducing hours of service and no longer allowing people to sign for packages at their front doors to ensure the safety of employees and customers amid the pandemic.
Simpson also suggests Canadians wipe down their parcels upon receiving them.
"Canadians are relying on the postal system right now to get goods to their homes," Simpson said. "They need to know that their mail is safe."
In addition to the preventative measures already in place for Canada Post and its employees, Simpson says CUPW is also working to get protective gear and introduce staggered start times for all letter carriers.