Postal workers will distribute "anthrax medicine" on May 6
Neither rain, nor sleet, nor plume of weapons-grade anthrax stays these couriers come May 6.
That Sunday, the Minnesota Department of Health will launch a dry run of an anthrax attack response using postal workers and law enforcement escorts. It's a strategy that's been studied nationally since 2004, but no one has tried "Operation Medicine Delivery" in a full scale test until now.
"We're doing it with actual people out on the street," says Jane Braun, director of emergency preparedness.
A week prior to the test, about 37,000 households in parts of St. Paul, North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal, and Golden Valley will receive a flier alerting them to the test. Then, on the actual day, 36 mail carriers with a police officer or deputy-partner will stroll the streets, leaving empty pill bottles in every mailbox on their route.
The idea is to test every aspect of the strategy -- how long it takes, what kind of mail boxes are problematic for pill bottles, et cetera.
Braun says Operation Medicine Delivery could be deployed as quickly as 24 hours after an anthrax attack. Medication centers would simultaneously pop up in schools and community centers, but this is an additional way to get antibiotics out to the population quickly. Close to 400 postal service workers have volunteered and been trained on the system.
"It's not something that has a high likelihood of happening," she says. "We're testing all the ways we possibly can."
Of course, the test could also stir up confusion in test neighborhoods, so USPS spokesperson Pete Nowacki is trying to make sure everyone knows: This is just a test.
"On Sunday, you're going to see your letter carrier in your neighborhood -- don't worry," he says. "You might get an empty bottle in your mail box. When you do just recycle it."
He may want to contact our local chapter of preppers on that point.
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