Dr. Elaine Ferguson remembers the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
In late February, headlines everywhere were dominated by the outbreak in Seattle, the first hot spot in the United States. Ferguson, the Postal Service’s associate medical director, was monitoring the situation closely.
She wasn’t alone.
“We had a lot of concerned employees. There were still a lot of unknowns back then, and that caused some fear and anxiety,” she said.
Together with other members of the organization’s COVID-19 working group, Ferguson — who is one of the Postal Service’s top medical experts — helped deliver accurate information to employees.
The team, made up of leaders throughout USPS, oversaw the creation and distribution of videos, posters, stand-up talks and other materials that helped workers understand the risks and how to protect themselves.
With the support of 100 postal occupational health nurses across the nation, the working group has also provided support to employees who have tested positive.
“The organization follows the blueprint, which involves contact tracing, cleaning facilities, appropriately notifying and educating employees, responding to union concerns and responses to the media. It’s a comprehensive plan,” Ferguson said.
Simon Storey, the Postal Service’s employee resource management vice president, credits Ferguson and the organization’s other medical professionals with helping USPS to look out for its workforce during a challenging time.
“Dr. Ferguson is an important member of our team. We value her medical expertise, which has helped us immeasurably as we work to respond to the pandemic,” he said.
Ferguson joined the Postal Service 16 years ago after working in the private sector. She has been instrumental in establishing the organization’s safety protocols in the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, as well as several other viral outbreaks.
“We’ve gone through H1N1, swine flu, bird flu, the Zika virus and Ebola. So the Postal Service has dealt with outbreaks before and actively responded to them,” she said.
While it is likely the coronavirus will continue to be part of everyday life for some time, protecting employees will remain a top priority, Ferguson said.
“Employees are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I’m proud to be part of this work to ensure the safety of our employees,” she said.
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