Biden's Vaccine Mandate May Slow Down His Plan to Deliver COVID Tests to U.S. Homes

Deputy Postmaster General Douglas Tulino of the U.S. Postal Service sent a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Tuesday that asked for a temporary waiver to a policy that would require postal workers to have COVID-19 vaccinations, or comply with weekly testing, beginning on January 10.

His letter asked OSHA to delay the deadline for the Postal Service to implement the requirements of the Emergency Temporary Standard policy for an extra 120 days, warning that if the rules went into effect now, mail service could be delayed throughout the country due to employee protests or a wave of resignations.

Any such disruption could also ostensibly delay the delivery of COVID-19 tests the Biden administration has promised it would soon start shipping to people's houses. However, officials are reportedly working hard behind-the-scenes to ensure such a staff shortage does not occur.

Mail-in voting, Postal Service
A vaccine mandate could result in staff shortages and delayed mail. In this photo, a postal worker is seen loading a truck outside a postal office on August 17, 2020, in North Bergen New Jersey. Photo by Kena Betancur/VIEWpress/Corbis/Getty

"A dramatic loss of employees at a time when the labor market is extremely tight and in the middle of the Postal Service's Peak Season would have a potentially catastrophic impact on our ability to provide service," Tulino's letter warned.

The message continued, "The American people are relying on us to timely deliver their
mail and packages throughout the holiday season—which aren't limited to holiday
packages but include critical items like Treasury checks, COVID-19 tests, and

OSHA has not made any announcement regarding the temporary waiver request from the USPS, but the USPS wants to continue using its current COVID-19 policies—which include mask-wearing and thorough cleaning of facilities—until a decision is made about their request.

The Postal Service may not have to wait for OSHA, though, since the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Friday on the legality of the agency's Emergency Temporary Standard policy. The conservative members of the court appeared skeptical about the mandates after hearing hours of arguments, but no decision had been handed out as of press time.

When reached for comment by Newsweek, a Department of Labor spokesperson replied, "OSHA received the letter and is preparing a response in accordance with the agency's rules regarding variances."

"OSHA's mission is to ensure every working person in the country has safe and healthy working conditions," the spokesperson's statement added. "In keeping with that mission, our goal is to help make sure every employer complies with this standard to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on the job and keep their workers safe."

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's plan to provide 500 million at-home COVID-19 testing kits for Americans will reportedly be rolled out in the coming days, and a website will soon be up that will direct people to locations where tests can be picked up or ordered for delivery.

The White House is also said to be working with the USPS for delivering the at-home test kits to households and the plans are said to close to completion, according to a Thursday report in The Washington Post.

On Friday, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spoke with members of the press while abroad Air Force One and indicated the same. She said of the test kit plans, "We are actively finalizing the details of the distribution mechanism, including a website, as we've talked about. I would expect us to provide those details next week. And yes, these tests will be sent out through the mail."

During the holiday season, numerous news outlets reported of long lines outside pharmacies and complaints of testing kit shortages. People looking to buy kits online during that period also found longer-than-usual wait times for deliveries.

The USPS is reportedly looking to avoid similar delivery delays when it comes to getting the at-home kits from the Biden administration out to people's homes.

The Washington Post, citing anonymous sources close to the plans, said the Postal Service is in talks with its four labor unions to keep the increased staffing levels brought in for the holiday period to aid with the test kit deliveries. The seasonal workforce is approximately 40,000 people each year, who helped the agency move 13.2 billion pieces of mail and parcels between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.