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DENVER (KDVR) — The City and County of Denver on Thursday ordered the closure of a United States Postal Service distribution center.

The facility is located at 7550 E. 53rd Pl. in northeast Denver and handles mail for all of Colorado and Wyoming, which have a combined population of about 6.5 million people.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) says it “responded to clusters of COVID-19 cases involving multiple employees at several USPS locations over the last week.”

On Friday, the DDPHE said there have been five confirmed COVID-19 cases at the facility, including one death.

On Wednesday, DDPHE staff visited the facility. However, they could only make “minimal observations” because of “the refusal of information and access to the facility,” the city said in a statement.

The department added the following about its Wednesday visit:

“The area the investigators were able to make observations from was a small public-facing space in comparison to the entire distribution warehouse buildings. In the general public post
station with three employees assisting customers with proper face coverings and plastic curtains separating each employee check-out station.”

In a separate statement issued later Thursday evening, DDPHE said, in part, “USPS not only failed to provide the necessary information, but they have not allowed inspections to support complete outbreak investigations. It certainly is not our intent to halt the delivery of mail or shut down an essential federal facility.  This was a measure of last resort, and the only remaining tool we have to get the facility management’s attention and secure public health compliance during a pandemic.  DDPHE and the City Attorney are committed to resolving these concerns with federal authorities quickly.

The facility was ordered to close immediately until the following conditions are met:

  • The facility receives a complete disinfection of all surfaces with an approved COVID-19
  • COVID-19 control measures are implemented
  • Control plans and procedures for how facility will implement with the COVID-19 control
    measures and comply

The city’s full list of COVID-19 control measures can be found in this document.

It can only reopen with DDPHE approval, the city said.

However, the USPS said it was keeping the facility open.

James Boxrud, a spokesperson for the USPS in the West, said the facility is federally owned and operated, and it is committed to following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Boxrud added that the Postal Service is an essential function under federal law during an emergency.

He issued the following statement, in part:

“We strongly disagree with the Denver Public Health order, which was made without a visual verification, without advanced coordination with the team of postal employees working on these issues with Denver Public Health, and without the understanding of the Postal Service’s substantial, ongoing efforts to protect its employees and the public.

This closure notice, citing no adverse findings, has the potential to impact stimulus checks, prescription medications, personal correspondence, and vital goods delivered to the more than 6.5 million customers who live in Colorado and Wyoming.

We have provided Denver Public Health the necessary documentation to satisfy their inquiry and are confident the order will be rescinded.”

On Friday, the City and County of Denver met with USPS representatives.

According to the city, the meeting went well and both parties said they are committed to working together on outbreak and complaint investigations for COVID-19.

“The city will continue to work with USPS to obtain information about additional cases, whether transmission appears to be ongoing, and to ensure controls are implemented,” the city said in an email to FOX31 and Channel 2.

On Monday, a post office near the University of Denver remained open despite receiving orders to close.