CLEARFIELD — While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented immense challenges for people and businesses, the outbreak has also been a learning experience for those dedicated to delivering the mail.
“COVID is throwing an extra loop into everything,” said Clearfield Postmaster Scott Mangels during a Monday news conference. “It also helped us prepare for this time of the season because we were seeing our normal holiday volumes in March. So we could almost predict how many extra employees we were going to need so we could be prepared for the season.”
During this unprecedented time, more holiday gifts and greetings are expected to be sent through the mail this year. This week, the post office is encouraging would-be Santas to be especially careful as they send gifts through the mail, particularly those meant for local military members.
Mangels said the agency has already hired more seasonal personnel to handle all the extra volume that usually doesn’t start till the fall.
“We’ve kind of been already in the (holiday) season mode, so to speak,” Mangels said. “We were hiring people in March knowing that if we were going to see volumes like this in March, then we’re going to see even more during the holiday season, so we were already prepared for all of this.”
Mangels also noted important dates to ensure on-time delivery to those military members who are stationed internationally or family members living abroad.
“If you have someone who you would like to send a gift to overseas, I want to tell you about some very important dates to ensure your package arrives timely. (Friday) is the last day to mail first-class and priority packages,” he said. “Dec. 18 is the last day to mail priority express mail for overseas packages. That’s just for military.”
He said the Postal Service employs more than 100,000 veterans, so the agency recognizes the importance of holiday deliveries to those military members and diplomatic members who are away from their families during the Christmas season.
“Not only does my team here in Clearfield, but all post offices around the nation are dedicated to make sure parcels are delivered in a timely manner so that your holidays can be more enjoyable,” Mangels said.
He said the volume of packages being delivered has jumped since the pandemic struck back in March.
“It’s just more convenient. Now you see a lot of dog food being ordered and paper towels, or toilet paper — big items, like TVs,” he said. “We’re just making it easier so you can sit in the comfort of your own home and order online.”
The Postal Service will extend its retail hours of operation during the next several weeks, he said. Times for local post office locations can be found online.
“Holidays are always a little heavier,” he said. “Everybody here has worked for a certain amount of time and we all know what to expect.”
He advised gift givers to make sure their parcels are packaged safely to avoid damage and addressed properly as well. He also warned against sending potentially dangerous or hazardous materials.
“The post office has made it easier for everybody. You could visit usps.com/together. From there you can use ‘click and ship’ to help ship the holiday gifts to your loved one,” Mangels said. “You can order free priority boxes, shipping supplies and it even includes buying postage. You can request a free pickup by your mail carrier for the next day, which is good for social distancing as the Clearfield post office delivers to Hill Air Force Base.”
The U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx all said their shipping deadlines for individuals mailing packages are relatively consistent with last year.
The last recommended shipping date for UPS ground depends on the package’s route, but can be as early as Dec. 15. Recommended send-by dates for UPS three-day select, second-day air and next-day air are Dec. 21, 22 and 23, respectively.
FedEx says packages shipped by FedEx ground or home delivery should be sent by Dec. 15. FedEx two-day and overnight packages should be shipped by Dec. 22 and 23, respectively, and FedEx same-day can be sent on Christmas Day. Those dates could change as the holiday season progresses, according to FedEx’s website.