The U.S. Postal Service acknowledged Dec. 1 that it will not enforce a state mandate that face coverings must be worn inside public places.

The Courier-Gazette asked for the agency's policy after being told the Post Office in Rockland will not deny service to customers who refuse to wear masks.

"We encourage all of our employees to follow the guidelines laid out by the CDC and state and local health officials as they pertain to wearing masks," said an email statement Dec. 1 from Stephen Doherty, the strategic communications specialist for the U.S. Postal Service's northeast region.

"In addition, we have modified our lobby operations, adding sneeze guards, signs that request the use of customer face coverings, and a combination of signs and physical cues to define social distancing. We have also made some changes to our delivery functions, notably to doorstep collections or deposits of packages and signature captures to decrease close contact.

"We appreciate the vigilance of our employees who work to protect our co-workers and our communities to the best of our ability. We appreciate our many customers who share that attentiveness to our well-being," the statement continued.

"Postal employees serve the mailing and shipping needs of our local customers. We do not take on the role of enforcing local ordinances," he concluded.

The death toll from COVID-19 across the U.S. stands at 268,000 as of Dec. 1, according to John Hopkins University. There have been 214 deaths in Maine with 709 people hospitalized.

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said wearing a proper face covering, physical distancing and washing hands are the best ways to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.