COVID-19 Update March 17, 2020

COVID-19 Update March 17, 2020

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Not only is it flu season, but the new and rapidly spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19) is on the rise internationally. It can be challenging to know what measures to take, especially when determining what is "media hype" and what is factual. The overall wellness of our employees and members is a top priority. FreeState needs to do our part to not only keep you healthy but to keep you informed.

As information changes, we will continue to update our members and employees. Please visit www.freestate.coop/COVID19 for the latest updates from your cooperative. 

What FEC is doing:
FreeState Electric Cooperative wants to play an active, alert, and proactive role in mitigating the spread of this virus. We will do what we can when it comes to the overall health of those we serve. FreeState has developed a Business Continuity Committee (BCC) that communicates daily via conference call to address the changes and updates as they come in continually. This committee will keep our members and employees informed as we work to protect everyone we can. 

Also, the BCC is working to develop a Pandemic Guideline to protect employees and members as this fluid situation progresses. The safety of employees and members is of the utmost priority. 

Internally, we are actively practicing social distancing within the office, sanitizing surfaces, and disinfecting areas of the buildings. We are working hard to keep your power on by staying healthy ourselves. 

While our offices are still open to the public, we do encourage members to pay bills online at www.freestate.coop, or utilize the SmartHub app. We also take mail-in payments. If you regularly drop your payment off at the office, we ask you to use our drop box, rather than coming into the office. If you are paying with cash, please come in and be aware that our employees will be utilizing gloves to make the transaction. These measures are for the safety of both members and employees. We are also limiting face-to-face contact with members at this time, and internally we are following the guidelines for a distance of six feet from each other. 

The Board of Trustees has called an emergency board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, via conference call. At this meeting, the board and management at FreeState will address the COVID-19 pandemic and how it will impact members, employees, and the communities we serve. 

FreeState understands that this pandemic is unprecedented, and the cooperative will ensure that members who rely on us have services while dealing with this pandemic. The co-op also understands that many residential and business members may be facing financial uncertainty, and we recognize that we are all in this together. 

This pandemic does not remove responsibilities for members to pay bills, nor does it cancel any bills. FreeState wants to remind members that if you are experiencing any hardship to contact the office. Our representatives will work with members during this time to make partial payments, or make other payment arrangements. Automatic payments and bank drafts that members have already in place will be unaffected by this situation. 

COMMUNICATING WITH EXPERTS:
We will be following and implementing suggestions from trusted organizations and experts across our state, including the County Health Departments, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, everyone should: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces daily. 

We are also following guidelines for self-quarantine. Those who are under home quarantine should not attend school, work or any other setting where they are not able to maintain at about a 6-foot distance from other people. 

If a person under quarantine develops symptoms of COVID-19 during their 14-day quarantine period, including measured fever of 100.4(F) or higher and lower respiratory symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath they should contact their healthcare provider and tell them about their recent travel or other COVID-19 exposure. 

The KDHE recommends a 14-day quarantine for Kansans who have: 

  • Traveled to a state (California, New York, and Washington state) on or after March 15. 
  • Visited Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado within the past week. 
  • Traveled on a cruise ship on or after March 15. 
  • Traveled internationally on or after March 15.
  • Received notification from public health officials that you are a close contact with a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19. Close contact is someone who has been closer than 6 feet for more than 10 minutes while a patient is symptomatic. 

INTERNAL PRECAUTIONS:
As mentioned above, the wellness of our employees and members is a top priority. Now is a great time to review a few "elementary," but helpful tips on ways to keep your loved ones safe as this situation plays out: 

  • Wash your hands EFFECTIVELY – signs exhibiting proper handwashing are in each restroom at FEC. There are no public restrooms at FEC. 
  • Cover your mouth with a Kleenex and dispose of the Kleenex immediately.
  • Cold and flu season is a GREAT time to clean/sanitize your workspace and shared areas.  
  • The key to being healthy is holistic wellness. Focus on staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of rest, and incorporating regular exercise into your routine.  
  • If you experience any symptoms of the cold or flu (which are VERY similar to Coronavirus), we encourage you to please stay home! Even if you keep to your office/workspace, we all share communal areas, and viruses spread quickly.

SYMPTOMS of CORONAVIRUS:
According to the CDC, symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the common cold or flu. They can be mild or cause severe illness or death. Symptoms generally appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS:

  • According to the CDC, COVID-19 is spread mainly from person-to-person. 
  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
  • May be spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects. A person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.

ACTIVELY MONITORING:
FEC will be actively monitoring the situation, and we have open lines of communication with necessary parties. You will be the first to hear of any developments that may impact our community, members, or employees. We understand that circumstances are ever-changing and plan to communicate quickly and efficiently, on an as-needed basis. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to ask. We will keep you posted as the situation evolves.

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