COVID-19 UPDATE: Mail Remains Low Threat, But Cardboard Can Hold Virus For Hours


By Marshall Keith James
JGW Group
(703) 547-6270

COVID-19 Update –March 18, 2020:

As of this morning the CDC has not issued a formal alert addressing mail or commercial deliveries however, over the past 24 hours, reports state that researchers at the National Institutes of Health have raised concerns that the COVID-19 virus can remain airborne for several hours and active on surfaces including cardboard for a day or longer.

While such studies indicate a potential increase in risk, the probability of contracting COVID-19 through the handling of mail, which has been in the standard mail stream for several days, remains low provided the handler follows common sense personal protective protocols.

Commercial deliveries which may only spend hours in the transit stream are of a greater concern. For this reason, we strongly recommend mail center managers share the following precautions along with your organization’s personal protective equipment protocols, with anyone tasked with handling or opening mail or packages delivered by USPS and commercial carriers such as UPS or FedEX.

The use of PPE and proper handling precautions by receiving, reception, and administrative personnel as well as mailroom staff will help minimize the spread not only of COVID-19 but of many seasonal viruses.

1: Always follow personal safety protocols including the use of eye protection, gloves and, if available, N-95 mask. While the mask and eye protection are optional, gloves are not. Using these simple personal protective tools during handling, sorting, distribution and opening is the best way to prevent exposure to COVID-19 as the result of coming in contact with contaminated surfaces.

2: Follow proper PPE donning, doffing, and disposal protocols. If you are not sure how to safely put on, take off, and dispose of protective equipment.

3: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water prior to donning gloves and immediately following their removal. Hand sanitizers are fine for quick cleaning, but do not replace the need to thoroughly wash your hands.

4: Don’t reuse or share protective equipment. Ever!

5: Never place mask or eye protection on the same surface that is being used to process or store mail or packages.

6: Avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes or nose. Because we do this unconsciously, this is a secondary reason for using masks and a primary reason for eye protection.

7: Keep your work area clean. At the start and stop of each handling cycle, take a moment and sanitize work surfaces. Spray any surface that may be exposed to incoming mail with a disinfectant solution and wipe dry. Repeat this process throughout the day and when processing is complete.

8: As of today, commercial disinfecting products remain in short supply. CDC website ( offers tips on creating disinfectants from common household products. Solutions such as bleach should be mixed 1/3 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Apply to the surface keeping it wet for several minutes before rinsing with clean water and drying.

9: If you are not feeling well, or you are concerned that someone you come in direct contact with is sick, tell your supervisor and follow your organization’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as the situation changes.

Remember, as we say in every class, the most effective tool for staying safe is between your ears. Follow protocols, stay informed, and be vigilant.

If you have any questions or need assistance in developing your mail handling protocols, please contact JGW Group at