A Southern Pines postal carrier’s refusal to have his temperature checked at the entrance of Pine Knoll has stoked privacy concerns among residents of the senior living community.
The facility’s management began screening all visitors for signs of fever in March to reduce residents’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Most of the people who live at Pine Knoll, owned by St. Joseph of the Pines, are older than 70, making them especially vulnerable to the virus.
The mail is normally delivered to locked postboxes inside the building. But because the postal worker won’t consent to having his temperature read by a no-touch thermometer, the residents are now forced to pick up their mail from a concierge at a certain time of the day.
“It creates additional work for the concierges, and they’re already very busy and working very hard to help people,” said John Presley, a former college administrator who moved to Pine Knoll in July. “And while I certainly have high regard for the concierges, I just think my mail is a private matter and it should be placed in my mailbox by the U.S. Postal Service.”
He added: “When someone is holding your mail, they know a lot about you.”
Presley is one of 42 residents who signed a petition asking the Southern Pines postmaster to assign a different carrier to the facility. They’ve also asked for intervention from elected officials like state Rep. Jamie Boles, whose district includes Moore County.
“They feel their privacy is being violated, and I understand their position,” Boles said. “It’s about courtesy and having respect for the residents.”
Boles said he has shared the residents’ concerns with a liaison for U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who holds more sway over issues involving federal employees.
Pine Knoll is one of two independent living campuses operated by St. Joseph of the Pines, a local aging services network. Presley said the carrier assigned to the other facility, Belle Meade, is agreeing to have their temperature checked.
“The solution seems so simple,” Presley said. “Just assign a postman that would be willing to have his temperature taken.”
An employee of the Southern Pines post office on Thursday said the postmaster was not authorized to comment on the petition, which was launched April 22. Phillip Bogenberger, the North Carolina spokesperson for USPS, did not address claims from some residents that the American Postal Workers Union prohibits another carrier from being assigned to Pine Knoll.
“The Postal Service recognizes that some customers have expressed concerns about accepting mail, and a few have asked for unusual measures for deliveries,” he said. “Our operational protocol does not require any Postal Service employee to follow requests outside of normal delivery methods.”
Bogenberger said customers who “choose not to accept mail using established delivery practices” can arrange to pick up their mail from the post office. But this isn’t a viable solution for most people at Pine Knoll, according to Donny Griffin.
“When you’re in a retirement place and most of your residents don’t drive and a heck of a lot of them are over 90, there’s no way we can go to the post office and collect,” said Griffin, who has lived at Pine Knoll for the past four years. “When you’re in retirement homes and nursing homes, it’s an entirely different issue.”
Griffin said she fells the carrier is being “belligerent” in his unwillingness to consent to a temperature check.
“I can’t see the problem of a postman coming in here and having his temperature taken when it doesn’t even touch his body,” she said. “I can’t understand the attitude. I really can’t.”