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The Postal Service is seeking a temporary delay from the vaccine mandate

Postal carrier Josiah Morse in Portland, Maine. The USPS is seeking an exemption from COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Robert F. Bukaty
Postal carrier Josiah Morse in Portland, Maine. The USPS is seeking an exemption from COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The U.S. Postal Service, one of the nation's biggest employers, is seeking a temporary delay from the Biden administration's order that workers at large companies be vaccinated for COVID-19 or face weekly testing.

The USPS has written the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is charged with enforcing the rule, asking for "temporary relief" from having to comply with it, while the issue is before the courts. The Supreme Court on Friday is hearing arguments challenging vaccine mandates.

Deputy Postmaster General Doug Tulino cites supply chain issues in his letter:

Given the significant challenges that our nation's supply chains are already experiencing, we respectfully suggest that the nation cannot afford the additional potential substantial harm that would be engendered if the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail and packages is significantly negatively impacted.

The USPS is seeking a 120-day delay in having to comply with the mandate.

Tulio says the agency is now in the middle of its peak season, which runs from October through January, and that with more than half a million employees, "it can be very difficult and time consuming to make even modest changes to policies and procedures that impact the working conditions of its employees. This is especially true when the collection and use of medical information is involved."

The White House, however, is unsympathetic to the post office's request.

In her briefing Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki said that OSHA had previously determined that "compliance with the rule was feasible for all employers, including the Postal Service."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: January 7, 2022 at 12:00 AM EST
A previous version of this story said that the Postal Service was seeking an exemption from the vaccine mandate. The Postal Service says it wants a temporary delay in having to comply with the rule and that if the mandate is upheld by the courts, it will anticipates it will be able to fully comply at the end of the requested 120-day period.
NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.

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