Kathleen Tanuzzo, a North Miami resident who tried to send mail to Kansas City on December 6, tells New Times her packages have been stuck at a processing center in Opa-locka for over a week. For days, she says, she was told her Priority Mail packages had shipped, when in fact they had never left the processing facility.
"The USPS [told] me my Priority Mail envelopes were not delayed and en route as the tracking info said, but they were still sitting in Opa-locka," Tanuzzo explains.
She says a USPS representative told her there'd been COVID outbreaks in some facilities, including Opa-locka, and that may have been why her priority packages, which should have been expedited, were taking so long.
USPS spokesperson Debra Fetterly confirms to New Times that the Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center in Opa-locka, where packages mailed from South Florida are sorted and shipped out to their final destinations, has experienced delays because of COVID and has been hiring extra employees to pick up the slack.
"The Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center in Opa-locka, FL, has faced challenges recently, due to COVID-19; at the same time, mail volumes have dramatically increased," Fetterly writes in an email. "We have taken steps to address issues caused by the pandemic as we approach our busiest weeks, including hiring seasonal employees and allocating employees to facilities that need additional resources."
The combination of COVID cases and the enormous amount of packages being sent this season has caused a strain on USPS operations. Jeff Riddell, president of the Broward chapter of the American Postal Workers Union, tells New Times that overflow mail from the Royal Palm facility has had to be routed to a facility in Fort Lauderdale and to an annex facility that opened during the holidays to expedite shipping.
"You bet there is a lot of mail. This is the time of year that we get pounded," says Riddell. "There is a tremendous amount of mail coming into Royal Palm. Employees are working 12-hour days regularly, including [scheduled] days off. Yet staffing is an issue."
Fetterly suggests that last-minute gift-givers send their presents as early as possible this year, to make sure the packages get to their destination before the end of the year.
"As we do each year, the postal service reminds customers to send mail and packages early to avoid glitches," Fetterly says.