“Please protect yourself and others. Masks or face coverings recommended in our lobby.”

So read three signs on the door to the Pittsfield Post Office. But the post office apparently doesn’t think it should have to take COVID-19 as seriously as it expects of its customers.

According to a story in the Oct. 16-17 Eagle by Francesca Paris, at least four employees of the Fenn Street office contracted the virus in recent weeks and management has refused to provide information about the cases to the Pittsfield Health Department or assist in contact tracing. Worse, the department suspects the service hasn’t been providing information on COVID cases since the start of the pandemic.

Businesses and agencies largely have been cooperating in getting the city and county through this devastating and persistent pandemic. There is one significant exception, however, and it is likely this situation has its roots in the previous presidential administration’s dereliction of duty in confronting COVID-19.

The Health Department had been made aware of the COVID-19 cases and heard complaints about the post office’s behavior in regards to the virus. The American Postal Workers Union Local 497 in Springfield is engaged in a grievance process against the Pittsfield post office related to COVID-19 but the specifics are unknown.

According to the story, interim Health Director Andy Cambi met with Pittsfield Postmaster Stefanie Curry and was told that the post office did not have to cooperate with local boards of health. Ms. Curry did not respond to The Eagle’s request for comment.

Pittsfield Public Nurse Manager Kayla Donnelly said that at least one USPS official cited HIPAA regulations on medical disclosures in not providing COVID-19 information to the city, although, as Paris reported, HIPAA allows disclosure to public health authorities when communicable diseases are the issue. The unnamed official appeared to be following the lead of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a flowing font of misinformation, who accused a reporter of violating her HIPAA rights by asking her about her vaccination status. In reality, anyone can ask anyone else about their vaccination status and the person asked can reply yes, no or none of your business — the equivalent of no.

Local management of the federal USPS is pulling rank on the local health board, but pecking order should be irrelevant. The Pittsfield post office interacts with Pittsfield residents and it should cooperate with local health authorities in the same way that any state or local agency does. In its haughtiness, it is failing to be a good citizen in the middle of a health crisis.

If its any consolation, the Pittsfield Health Department is not alone in its frustration. The nonprofit news organization ProPublica has throughout the pandemic chronicled the failure of post offices across the nation to protect workers from COVID-19. The complaints of employees range from poor sanitation practices to inadequate protective equipment to insufficient quarantining measures. Management was faulted for not testing employees for the virus, failing to inform employees of COVID-19 cases among fellow workers and doing sloppy contact tracing.

Complicating the problem was the dismal response to complaints from post office employees by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to a study by The Wall Street Journal, since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1,000 worker complaints to OSHA about poor COVID-19 practices by post offices have resulted in four citations for violations, all of which were contested by the USPS. The Postal Service has not been required to make a single change or pay a dime in penalties.

During this same time period, roughly 55,000 postal workers contracted COVID-19 and at least 197 have died.

The buck stops with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Donald Trump appointee who appears to share his former boss’s disinterest in governing and cavalier attitude toward the coronavirus. DeJoy raised a furor in 2020 with draconian cost-cutting measures that slowed mail delivery and threatened the delivery of mail-in ballots — which surely pleased his then-boss. A federal judge in the state of Washington blocked operational changes that slowed mail delivery because “at the heart of DeJoy’s and the Postal Service’s actions is voter disenfranchisement.”

President Joe Biden has managed to dislodge a number of Trump saboteurs from federal agencies, but DeJoy remains, telling Democrats at a testy House hearing in February, “Get used to me.”

It’s possible that local postmaster Curry feels constrained by the message coming down from the top — cut costs, don’t sweat the deadly pandemic and stonewall bothersome local agencies and journalists. Still, the Pittsfield post office is not in Washington, D.C. It’s on Fenn Street, and its first responsibility is to the people who visit the post office and interact with mail carriers. Management should try harder to live up to the good advice offered on the post office door.

Bill Everhart is an occasional Eagle contributor.