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Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

An investigation by Senate Democrats published Wednesday found that there were "significant" U.S. Postal Service delays this summer for mail-order prescription drugs, according to information provided by five major pharmacies.

Why it matters: Demand for mailed prescriptions has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, per the report by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

  • The investigation, first reported by the Washington Post, questioned Cigna, CVS Health, Walgreens, United Health and Humana.

What they found: Four of the companies said that their mail-order pharmacies' delivery times generally took three to four days instead of two to three days, although one company described "delays of seven days or more" for patients in July.

  • "The number of orders taking over five days to deliver has risen dramatically since the onset of the pandemic," another unnamed pharmacy told the senators.
  • One company reported $700,000 in additional costs in July from increased reshipments and service delays.

The big picture: The investigation comes amid worries that the USPS will not be able to handle increased volumes of mail-in ballots driven by the pandemic.

  • On-time delivery for priority mail declined sharply from July to August, per an internal briefing for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released last month by the House Oversight Committee.
  • The USPS' internal watchdog found some unresolved issues within the agency that could impact its ability to efficiently process and deliver election mail, according to an audit published last week.

What they're saying: "Our workforce, like many others, have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, which has resulted in certain service disruptions," USPS public relations manager Dave Partenheimer said in an email. "We are aggressively working to ensure full service coverage across the network, including increasing hiring based on local needs and improving process flows."

Read the report.

Go deeper

Instacart in the spotlight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Grocery delivery company Instacart became a critical service for many consumers overnight when cities and states across the U.S. quickly implemented stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Why it matters: The pandemic reportedly brought the company its first profits.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

3 hours ago - World

Australian PM pledges $700M for climate change-threatened Great Barrier reef

A green sea turtle is flourishing among the corals at Lady Elliot island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday a AU$1 billion ($703 million) investment plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

Why it matters: The nine-year plan for projects including water quality improvement, reef conservation and supporting some 64,000 tourism jobs comes months ahead of this year's federal election. It has been criticized by scientists and environmental groups for failing to tackle climate change.