Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative officials are closely monitoring evolving information on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Virginia Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and the National Safety Council, and are working in coordination with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in taking measures for the protection of its employees as well as its members — those who receive service from the cooperative.
Since MEC employees are clearly defined as essential personnel under the commonwealth of Virginia’s “Shelter in Place” order, the cooperative has been operating for several weeks under its emergency pandemic plan. The plan incorporates measures to ensure that the business’s critical operations continue without interruption to provide reliable electric power and other services to the nine Virginia counties that it serves as well as portions of five counties in North Carolina.
The measures, in effect, help maintain a dependable workforce with the goal of keeping key service personnel — such as line workers and member support representatives — healthy and available to meet the needs of its members.
MEC’s emergency pandemic plan calls for the closing of its district offices and cooperative facilities to all traffic except MEC employees until further notice.
The plan also requires its employees to avoid close contact with co-workers as they comply with the 6-foot social distancing standard. Additionally, the plan limits the number of personnel in the building at any given time by separating the workforce into two teams which helps mitigate employees’ exposure potential. Personal protection masks are provided at each district for employees who wish to wear them as an effective precautionary measure. Crews working outdoors are travelling separately, have access to both masks and rubber gloves, and are keeping their distance from each other and the general public as much as possible.
“Our employees have been doing a commendable job of taking these measures seriously and following the precautionary guidelines,” said John C. Lee Jr., president and CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative. “They recognize that we are all in this together, and we are all depending on each other to do the right thing to avoid exposure to the virus. As always they’re taking good care of each othe.”
Additional measures implemented include, but are not limited to:
• Doubled the cleaning services at facilities with emphasis on disinfectant-wipe downs on door knobs, push-bars and other areas that receive heavy hand contact.
• Canceled all business travel outside of the service territory.
• Positioned bottles of disinfecting hand cleaner throughout facilities and strongly encourage regular use by employees.
w Mandated that if any employee has someone in the home who is sick or running a fever, they notify their supervisor and stay home until the person who is sick has met COVID-19 protocols.
• There should be no gathering or meeting of more than five employees and only then if absolutely necessary. The company recognizes crews working outdoors will be working in the general vicinity of each other; and even then, they are asked keep their distance whenever possible.
• All incoming mail and packages are quarantined for five days before distribution and opening.
• Limited interoffice travel and interaction among the districts and the EMPOWER Headquarters in Bracey to unavoidable only.
• Closed all the facilities to the public; only employees are permitted to enter.
• Whenever possible, employees are asked to bring lunches and limit interaction with others at restaurants or food service establishments at lunchtime.
• Employees working outside the office have been instructed to limit any interaction with others while in the field, and if approached by a member or other individual, to politely and respectfully let them know that they must keep a safe distance and then encourage the individual to contact the office by phone.
• To keep the risk of spread to a minimum, MEC is asking that outside employees avoid coming into the buildings whenever possible and conduct workday and project meetings outside and with appropriate distancing.
• If employees are not well they must stay at home.
“I am very proud of the way our organization is handling this public health crisis and the manner in which we continue to meet our members’ needs professionally and with high quality service,” Lee said. “We are doing so while taking extensive measures that help protect us all from this virus; but make no mistake…these measures are cumbersome and inefficient, and add time and effort to every task,” he said.
Lee said MEC members should be on the lookout for suspicious emails, telephone calls or persons impersonating Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative employees. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of opportunities such as this. Anyone receiving a call from someone claiming to represent Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and making threats or demands for immediate payment should hang up and call their local district office.
MEC member support representatives are available by phone Monday through Friday during normal business hours to answer questions about accounts, conduct administrative business or to provide alternate payment options.
“Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures,” said Lee, “and I want to assure our members that we will continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and will lift restrictions in place to protect our members and employees based only on credible information…and when, in our conclusion, it is warranted.”
Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is the not-for-profit energy provider to over 31,000 meters located in portions of the Virginia counties of Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Southampton and Sussex counties and the North Carolina counties of Granville, Person, Northampton, Vance and Warren.