MOLINE, Ill. — Amidst a very busy holiday season, local postal workers say the pandemic-related increase in deliveries is here to stay.
This year, the USPS estimates over 12 million letters and flats, as well as over 800 million packages, will be sent out between Thanksgiving and the New Year holidays. Nationwide, the agency began preparing for the 2021 holiday rush all the way back in Febuary.
"We're just here to service our community and put our best foot forward every day," said Christian Ogbebor, USPS customer service supervisor in Moline. "We want to make sure that everybody gets their things in a timely fashion."
He says shipping out holiday gifts should always be done sooner, rather than later, but stressed that Dec. 17th was the deadline to ensure letters and packages arrive before Christmas.
Ogbebor also asked for patience toward his staff, as Monday, Dec. 13th will begin the busiest week of the year for the USPS.
But local postal workers say the typical 'Christmas Crunch' doesn't go away anymore, thanks to the pandemic.
"It just feels like this is the new normal," said Brandon Sandholm, a mail carrier in Moline. "Going forward, I don't see it ever declining or going down."
Sandholm walks a roughly 10-mile route, putting in anywhere from 18,000 to 30,000 steps every day. He says after the 2020 holiday season, his delivery volumes never dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels.
"It's been a steady increase throughout the entire year," he said. "Which means longer hours, more deliveries when it comes to package volume."
Ogbebor has noticed it too, and points to the boom in online shopping that Covid-19 has exacerbated.
"We have seen an increase in online shopping, with the e-commerce businesses emerging more at this present moment," said Ogbebor.
Right now, Sandholm is averaging 100-150 packages on his route each day, but says he actually has a lighter load than most of his colleagues.
"There's some routes that get twice as much as I get," he said. "We're all working 12 hours a day."
But he doesn't necessarily mind the increase, saying that soon it will feel like 'normal.'
"And it's our job to help the public," he said. "We're a public service, so it's kind of gratifying in its own way."
However, he does say as the winter weather sets in, the community can help ensure a safe, speedy delivery of all its packages by keeping sidewalks shoveled and staircases cleared of ice.