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What's Behind the Mysterious Shutdown of Berkeley's Post Office Services?

Gar Smith
Saturday July 25, 2020 - 03:22:00 PM

Over the past week, I've made three visits to Berkeley's Main Post Office and everytime, I found the counters mysteriously closed. 

There were no posted notices announcing new hours; no explanations. I went online but the USPS website offered no explanation about the closures. 

On the third day, I dropped by at 11:15AM and spotted a single hand-scrawled note on the shuttered counter. It read: "Off for lunch break. Back in 1 hour." But it didn't say when the note was posted so there was no way to known when service would resume. 

Confused and frustrated, I drove across town to the North Berkeley branch across from Andronico's. The lobby was open but, again, there were no clerks behind the counter. Just a hand-written note that said there would be no customer service "until 1:50." 

Returning to my car, I drove to a third PO on the west side of town. The doors to the San Pablo location were open but, again, the counters were closed. There was a single printed alert posted on the wall. It read: "Open 12:00 -16:00." I had arrived around 12:30, but there were no clerks to be seen. A few other would-be postal customers wandered around inside the lobby looking baffled and clutching envelopes and boxes needing postage. 

I took a closer look at the notice taped to the wall and discovered that it had been posted the previous day. This left me to wonder: "Have any postal workers even come into the PO today?" 

Another day passed before I made my fourth visit to the Berkeley Main. Today's visit was different. And unsettling. 

I was happy to see the counters were open but there was one postal employee to be seen. I approached the plastic sneeze guard and asked why I had been finding so many of Berkeley's mail stations closed during business hours. 

"There's been a staff shortage," she told me. 

"Sounds like it," I said. "If the PO has to shut down for a lunch break, that makes it sound like you've only got one employee on duty." 

"Yes," she confirmed. "It's just me here." 

"What happened to everyone else? Has Trump ordered layoffs?" 

"No," she explained. "It's the coronavirus. People tested positive. They're all in quarantine." 

"So it's just you here?" 

"Yes. Just me." 

"Miss, if you'll allow me to say it: You are a hero!"