Brian Castanheira

Package delivery in a pandemic

When COVID-19 hit the University of Florida earlier this year, officials scrambled to find alternative ways to handle the hundreds of essential functions that take place each day across the sprawling Gainesville campus. From classes and research to athletic events and testing for the virus, everyone needed to adjust to the new normal.

One area that likely was not top of mind for most was the delivery of packages to students living on campus, especially those who would be spending time in quarantine because of exposure to the virus. But consider: From August to October, the UF Department of Housing and Residence Life received and delivered more than 49,300 packages.

 Brian Castanheira, postal services manager for Housing Package Services, sized up the challenge, and quickly arrived at a solution.

Receiving a package can provide some positivity amid the anxiety and loneliness for a student quarantined for two weeks in an unfamiliar residence hall, but dropping off packages is much more complicated.

  “I had to come up with a plan as to how our quarantined residents would receive packages,” he said. “So, I designated myself as the person who would deliver packages to the quarantined dorms.”

Castanheira oversees the thousands of deliveries from FedEx, UPS, DHL and the U.S. Postal Service that pour into UF for on-campus residents. That’s a tall order in the best of times; during a pandemic, where many people are not where they usually live, it can be daunting.

The department team came up with a system. Isolated students can fill out a package discrepancy form with their UFID, tracking number and temporary location on the department’s website. The form provides delivery instructions for Castanheira to follow or the option to have a package held until after the student completes quarantine.

Using this form, Castanheira brings the package to the student’s assigned quarantined dorm. He does not come in direct contact with any of the quarantined students. Instead, he leaves the package at their door and then sends them an email telling them the package is outside.

Mindful of the risks, Castanheira said he wanted to limit possible exposure to one delivery person: himself. “We certainly do not want multiple people going into those areas to deliver,” he said.

Castanheira takes appropriate precautions, including wearing personal protective equipment, or PPE, along with avoiding direct contact with infected students.

Castanheira makes deliveries every day to the two residence halls designated for quarantined students, and said he intends to remain the sole delivery person for the department into the spring term.

It may seem like a small gesture among all of the hardships brought on by the pandemic, but he knows how important it is to the person on the receiving end of the package.

“I take pride in knowing that these students can still receive their packages safely and securely, even though they are not in their normal dorms,” he said.

By Lily Rucci