by William L. Caynor Sr., Price Electric CEO
March 31, 2020
The title COVID-19 alone conjures up an ominous connotation and it should, given the death left in its wake. President Trump most recently extended social distancing (maintaining at least six feet from others) restrictions until April 30, and Governor Evers issued a 14 day “Safer at Home” order for non-essential Wisconsin employees on March 24. The objective in staying home is to flatten the skyrocketing curve of increased confirmed victims of this merciless virus. The difference with COVID-19 in comparison to other pandemics is the aggressiveness of the virus. A patient could walk into a hospital under their own power and 12 hours later be on a ventilator fighting for their life. Our history can attest that we have survived pandemics of cholera, smallpox, black death, malaria, and influenza, and though we are strong and resilient, we must take this seriously.
Predictive forecasts indicate that the COVID-19 peak for Wisconsin is around May 22. In an effort to protect Cooperative employees so that we can ensure safety and reliability, the front Member Service Center lobby has been closed to minimize potential exposure. Inside the office, the employees are continually washing hands, trucks, and work areas, while practicing social distancing, and communicating primarily by phone, radio, and e-mail. Some employees are working from home, while others are working in the field and minimizing face-to-face interactions, but we are still here to take care of your needs. We are postponing outside meetings, training, and travel beyond our service territory, which could also mean a possible postponement of your June Annual Meeting. We will certainly keep you apprised of any related changes. For the first time in Cooperative history the board’s last meeting was conducted via video conferencing. I could see this continuing in the country’s present state.
The COVID-19 situation is so fluid that new information and clarification is becoming available almost hourly and at least daily. Thirteen days ago, there were 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin and today there are 1,351.
Price Electric will be extending its moratorium on disconnects through the month of April and late charges will be relinquished to ensure members have electricity during this pandemic. Emergency response support from other cooperatives during large scale outage and emergency situations will be available on a case by case basis depending on the effects of the pandemic for the utility being requested.
Your Cooperative’s sales and revenue were below budget for the first quarter because of milder weather. With the advent of COVID-19 we are predicting a reduction in usage by commercial enterprises for Dairyland Power Cooperative who has 36% commercial industrial members, and when manufacturing and sand mines come to a halt, that means lost revenue. Price Electric has a membership demographic of 4% commercial, 51% residential, and 45% seasonal, and thus we anticipate an increase in residential usage as members are home, but seasonal and commercial should decline. Also, projected unemployment numbers are at a record high of 32%. That’s more than in the Great Depression.
Please keep in mind that the doors of your Cooperative may be closed, but we are here working to ensure your reliability and safety. Protect yourself, your family, and your community.