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Chicago postal worker dies of COVID-19

Unique Clay, a mother of three who had just given birth a week earlier, is the first active letter carrier in Chicago to die of the virus, according to the National Association of Letter Carriers.

A group of postal workers sign their names onto a poster Saturday memorializing Unique Clay, the city’s first postal worker to die from the coronavirus.
A group of postal workers sign their names onto a poster Saturday memorializing Unique Clay, the city’s first postal worker to die from the coronavirus.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

A Chicago US Postal Service letter carrier has died of COVID-19.

Unique L. Clay, 31, was pronounced dead at 8:47 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. She lived in Englewood.

Clay, a mother of three who had just given birth a week earlier, is the first active letter carrier in Chicago to die of the virus, according to a statement from the National Association of Letter Carriers. She worked for the postal service for two years.

Members of Unique Clay’s family cry during a memorial service Saturday at Kilbourn Park.
Members of Unique Clay’s family cry during a memorial service Saturday at Kilbourn Park.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

An autopsy found Clay died of a novel coronavirus infection and ruled her death natural, the medical examiner’s office said.

While Clay’s death is the USPS’s first in Chicago, more than 30 letter carriers in the city have tested positive for COVID-19, the union said.

A USPS spokesman declined to comment on Clay’s death but said 1,606 postal employees have contracted the virus among a nationwide workforce of more than 630,000, “with some deaths.”

Union representatives and employees held a balloon release at Kilbourn Park, 3400 N. Kilbourn Ave., in Clay’s honor Saturday morning while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

Postal workers from around the city gather at Kilbourn Park for a memorial for Unique Clay.
Postal workers from around the city gather at Kilbourn Park for a memorial for Unique Clay.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Local union chapter president Mack Julion said the USPS initially struggled — like many businesses — to collect the necessary personal protective equipment for its employees, but that it has been “pretty good” recently about providing all the necessary PPE.

He emphasized the danger of the challenges mail carriers face during the pandemic.

“We’re out there, we’re essential, there’s much interaction with our customers or the public,” Julion said. “We may be not be first responders or health care workers, but we need this equipment in order to do our job as well and for our members to be safe.”

Saturday was supposed to be the union’s annual food drive, an event that letter carriers “look forward to every year,” Julion said. Instead, that postponed drive was replaced by the somber memorial.

“How ironic that, during this crisis in Chicago, we would be talking about our first death from the COVID virus today,” Julion said.

Contributing: Ben Pope