Northwest Angle mail carrier to quit over Canadian vaccine requirement
In November, the Canadian government announced that on Jan. 15, essential workers only will be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated. Northwest Angle mail carrier Fred Caravetta would rather quit.
WARROAD, Minn. — Fred Caravetta has delivered mail to the Northwest Angle, the northernmost place in the lower 48 states, for more than 19 years.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, he leaves Warroad around 9 a.m., crosses the border into Canada, drives through Canada for 40 miles, crosses back into Minnesota and makes it to the Angle Inlet post office between 10:30 and 11. Then, he sets out from Young’s Bay by snowmobile or boat to deliver mail to Oak Island in Lake of the Woods before turning around and heading back to Warroad.
On Jan. 14, Caravetta, of Warroad, likely will make his last deliveries to the residents of the Northwest Angle. He is leaving his contract with the United States Postal Service because of a requirement that essential workers be vaccinated for COVID-19.
In November, the Canadian government announced that on Jan. 15, essential workers will only be allowed to enter the country if they are fully vaccinated. Until this point, essential workers have been exempt from any testing or quarantine requirements by the Canadian government.
Caravetta decided early on in the pandemic that he would not get vaccinated for COVID-19, and has long been concerned a requirement like this would come up. He thinks the messaging from the government has been unclear and believes potential hazards of vaccinations are underreported.
“I’m just not one for taking flu shots or anything else,” he said.
Still, Caravetta knows that leaving his contract could leave the United States Postal Service in a difficult position — it might be hard to soon find a replacement for his unique route. Even though he has decided to resign, he doesn’t want to leave the people of the Northwest Angle without their mail.
After finding out about the policy change, Caravetta sent his contract officer an email letting her know that he will be leaving his contract because of the new vaccine requirement. He also passed on a few possible options to ensure the residents of the Northwest Angle will still receive mail after Jan. 15.
“It’s a unique community up there and I just wanted to make sure that I didn’t have a hand in making anything harder for them,” Caravetta said.
The first option, according to Caravetta: Find a subcontractor to take his position. This would be somebody vaccinated who could take over the route until the USPS can find a permanent replacement.
A second option would be for Caravetta to continue delivering mail, but to change the route and means of transportation. Rather than cross the border, drive 40 miles through Canada and cross back into Minnesota, he toyed with the idea of snowmobiling across a frozen Lake of the Woods. Ultimately, he decided the option was not feasible.
“If you’re pulling a freight sled with a bunch of mail in it, you wouldn’t be going very fast and I kind of estimated that it would take about two hours to get up there,” said Caravetta. “Thinking about sub-zero temperatures, sitting out there for two hours and then having two hours back was just totally impractical.”
A third idea: Arrange to fly the mail to the Angle. Caravetta is a commercial pilot, but doubts there will be enough time to line up an aircraft.
During a conversation with a friend, Caravetta found a potential subcontractor: Scott Vickaryous.
Vickaryous grew up in the Northwest Angle and now lives in Warroad. He often travels to the Angle to visit his father in Angle Inlet. Caravetta says Vickaryous is now working out the details with the USPS.
During Caravetta’s time on the route, he came to know and appreciate residents of the Angle.
“... If you’re in a jam, and your life is threatened, or you just have a big problem, there’s not one of them that wouldn’t come in the dead of night, if they had to, to give you a hand,” Caravetta said.
Despite the people, he doesn’t think he will miss delivering mail.
“When I first started this job, I was quite a bit younger and it was exciting,” Caravetta said. "But, hopefully, I’m wiser. I know I’m more mature, and let’s just say the thrill is gone. Now every winter seems to be a little harder, and I have been thinking it was about time to do something else.”
Caravetta has a lifelong love for aviation. He is licensed as a commercial pilot and has had a hand in building approximately two dozen airplanes. Next, he would like to explore aircraft design.
“I’m not going to be making the money I did with the post office, but I’ll be OK. I’ll be doing a lot more interesting things that I like to do,” Caravetta said.