From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been several occupations that are essential to public health and continuing day-to-day life, like doctors, nurses, police and fire officials.
Another service, perhaps unheralded, that provides people with a sense of normalcy and allows for the continuation of business and communication is the U.S. Postal Service.
Chase Parent is a letter carrier for the Princeton Post Office and has been on the job since last September.
“The biggest thing that’s changed so far is with local businesses,” he said. “A lot of them have had to either shut down completely or adjust their hours, so a lot of them that we usually walk in and deliver to, we can’t do that right now.”
Parent added that many local business owners are having their mail forwarded to their homes.
“With local residents, some of them have put their mail on hold due to the fear that we may cross-contaminate some mail,” he said. “Most people have been shut up inside for a long time, so when they see their postal carrier, they’ll come out and talk to us for a little bit and try to get a little bit of normalcy and contact with the outside world.
“We’ve gotten more handwritten sentiments, things of that nature. Some people may not have a cellphone to talk to family members long-distance, so we’ve delivered a lot more handwritten things — people sending cards to each other, keeping in contact with family.”
With people staying at home, the delivery of packages from online shopping has increased as well. When the pandemic became more local, Parent said, there was an increase in packages of toilet paper and sanitizer.
Parent said there are a lot of medical deliveries in the area because of the number of elderly people.
“We have a pretty good-sized elderly population in the community, and they do not get out because they are the most vulnerable to the virus,” he said. “A lot of their medical needs, their medications, are delivered to their home addresses through the mail.”
Parent said he enjoys seeing people along his delivery route, and is making sure they are observing social distancing.
“A lot of people see us coming, but they still respect our space,” he said. “Everybody’s keeping a 6-foot distance and following the guidelines set out by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
“There’s been a lot of people who don’t come outside at all: People with health issues who just want to avoid contact.”
Parent said seeing people on his route and having them see someone every day is important.
“We’re able to deliver some normalcy to people who come out and talk to us,” he said. “I get to know them and connect with them. They see us coming and we’ll sit there and talk with them for a minute or two, and then move on.
“We see how everybody’s doing. It’s pretty cool to see everybody coming together on a personal level with some things like that.”
A former soldier for 12 years, Parent said he doesn’t feel like he is being placed in harm’s way.
“I know what it’s like to be essential and be held to front lines of combat,” he said. “For me, this is a war on the homefront, but at the same time, I feel like we’re taking a lot of precautionary measures to mitigate a lot of the things that would make us sick.”
The post office has a safety briefing every morning, when information is provided on how to prevent spreading COVID-19.
“I feel like we’re very essential to the daily need here,” he said. “We all take pride in what we’re doing, just for the simple fact that we all have families, too, and we like to have that interaction.”