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COVID-19

News >  Spokane

On the Front Lines: Letter carriers ensure the pandemic doesn’t stop the mail

United States Postal Carrier Dave Lantz in photographed in Spokane on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. He's seen an increase in the amount of packages he delivers since the beginning of COVID-19. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
United States Postal Carrier Dave Lantz in photographed in Spokane on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. He's seen an increase in the amount of packages he delivers since the beginning of COVID-19. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

For the past 33 years, David Lantz has delivered the mail – rain, shine or pandemic.

Lantz is a United States Postal Service mail carrier in downtown Spokane. He transferred to the area about 30 years ago from Orange County, California, to be closer to family.

“I love being outside and running into people,” Lantz said. “I kind of thrive on the interaction during the day.”

While Lantz isn’t “close friends” with any of his customers, he loves chatting with his “contemporaries” about things they have in common, especially being parents.

Lantz has two kids himself, a son who works as a brewer and a daughter who recently graduated from the University of Washington.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down much of daily life and keeping people home, one thing has stayed the same: those chats with customers about their kids.

“You’re sharing the life experience as a parent because you can’t see your kids,” he said.

They talk about their worries and share their joys, all in a few moments, when Lantz drops off the mail.

For the past few years, he has filled an unusual role as a mail carrier. Mail is delivered six days a week, so carriers have Sunday off and one day off during the week. Lantz picks up those downtown routes when their normal carrier has a day off, meaning he does a different route five days a week.

“I get just enough repetition, without too much,” Lantz said.

While his route might not be the same every day, Lantz’s routine often is. He begins his shift at the Riverside Post Office, getting set to “head out on the street and start my day.” He normally takes about six hours to finish a route. That hasn’t changed, but quite a few things have.

“I work downtown, and so the biggest difference for me is that almost everybody has locked their office,” he said.

Normally, Lantz would walk over to the front desk at a business and drop off the mail. Now he’s knocking on doors and ringing doorbells.

Quite a few businesses have held their mail, choosing to send an employee to pick it up a few times a week, he said.

Ever since people started receiving their stimulus checks, Lantz said he has seen an increase in the number of packages he delivers.

“I feel like there’s pent-up retail frustration,” he said. “Since the government sent out those $1,200 stimulus checks, the online ordering has really picked up in the last couple of weeks.”

Lantz is also practicing social distancing, wearing a mask when in close quarters with others.

Social distancing hasn’t been a huge change for Lantz, who said coming in contact with hundreds of people a day brings its own risks.

“I’m making sure I’m keeping customers at a distance, which I normally do anyways, but I’m really enforcing it,” he said.

Customers have been not only understanding but extra thankful, Lantz said.

More random people say “thank you” as he walks by.

“It’s like Christmas,” Lantz said, when people are normally “really thankful to see you and that you’re bringing them something.”

There’s “just a generalized feeling of, you know, we’re all in this together,” he said.

People are also leaving water and snacks in their mailboxes, something he calls a “gesture of kindness.”

“I think it’s fabulous,” Lantz said. “Just the idea that somebody has given any thought to me at all is really nice.”

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