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Post Office Begins New Safety Procedures to Reduce Anthrax Threat

US postal officials vowed today the mail will go through, and they announced new steps to protect postal workers and the public. CBS's John Roberts has late details on what is and is not being done.

The presidentially appointed Postal Board of Governors today voted to spend up to $1 billion to institute new safety procedures at mail-sorting facilities. But until new technology can be brought in to effectively sanitize the mail, those procedures will be decidedly low tech.

The immediate line of defense will be increased vigilance: Every postal worker will become another pair of eyes looking for anything suspicious. Maintenance procedures will be changed, and the use of compressed air to clean machines will be stopped immediately.

"The postal service has used a system where we blow out dust from our machines. So we are revising those procedures as we speak, " says Postmaster General John Potter.

Authorities will also pay particularly close attention to any medical problems among postal workers in an effort to identify patterns of infection and potential hot zones in postal facilities.

And officials are actively looking into new ways to sanitize the mail--exploring ultraviolet and cobalt radiation. But much of that technology is cumbersome and may require shipping letters and packages to special facilities as an interim step.

With 680 million pieces of mail traveling through 350 sorting plants every day, insuring the safety of postal workers will be an enormous task. So the Postal Service will immediately focus on sorting facilities they feel face the greatest threat--leaving many workers throughout the country with only their suspicions to protect them.

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