Questions continue to linger about the Pittsfield post office’s coronavirus situation as well as its leadership’s lack of cooperation with city health officials — and so far, there’s still no productive reply from the Postal Service.

Four Pittsfield postal employees test positive for COVID; city laments 'lack of cooperation'

According to Pittsfield Health Director Andy Cambi, the city has been stymied by postal officials while seeking information about reported COVID-19 cases at the Fenn Street USPS location — critical public health information, since mail carrier delivery routes sprawl across the entire city. In an effort to inform the public to the extent that it can, the Pittsfield Board of Health said in a statement that at least four of the post office’s employees have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last month, but Pittsfield Postmaster Stephanie Curry and other local Poster Service leadership have refused to cooperate with contact tracing efforts. Ms. Curry has not responded to The Eagle’s requests for comment.

Mr. Cambi said post office leadership told him that, as part of the federal U.S. Postal Service, it has its own policies that supersede local boards of health and therefore allow for this hamstringing of efforts to track and contain a viral pandemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives. Even if that is the case legally, “because we can” is not even close to a sufficient reason ethically. We call on Pittsfield’s postmaster and all other relevant postal officials to stop stonewalling and cooperate in the city’s efforts to protect and inform citizens amid a once-in-a-generation public health crisis — or at the very least answer as to why this much opacity is ostensibly required.

So far, there’s been little in the way of reasonable explanation. Pittsfield Public Nurse Manager Kayla Donnelly told The Eagle that at least one USPS official cited HIPAA while blocking COVID contract tracers from doing their job, but that federal law meant to protect patient privacy does in fact allow for disclosure of information relevant to the spread of communicable diseases like COVID-19 to public health officials. If HIPAA were applied in the way that this USPS official apparently sought, contact tracing for this or any pandemic would be nearly impossible.

While the Fenn Street post office might outrank municipal health boards as an independent agency of the federal executive branch, if anything this means it has an even higher responsibility to the people it is supposed to serve. Normally that entails handling and delivering mail, but presently that also means being transparent and cooperative with city health officials as they try to chart and contain the spread of this deadly virus. Right now, Pittsfield deserves better from its post office.