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Lincoln Herald | Lincolnton, NC

home : community : community July 9, 2020

3/14/2020 7:52:00 PM
Duke Energy Cutting Customers Breaks During Outbreak
Won't cut them off for non-payment during Wuhan flu crisis

Thomas Lark
Staff Writer

Duke Energy is one of the many regional and national entities cutting people a break these days.

The new Chinese-based Wuhan flu, the entirely more apt and accurate term for one of what are actually many corona viruses (including the common cold and the garden-variety flu that beset thousands of Americans from October through March), may be more a matter of media-fuelled hype and lemminglike, Pavlovian panic right now. Some social critics, such as noted lawyer and author Christopher Ferrara, have likened the current hysteria to a version of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast on steroids. Told in a first-person narrative style, with a tone of immediacy, desperation and horror, complete with fake news broadcasts, Welles’s 1938 radio play panicked thousands in New Jersey, who piled into their Fords to flee what they honestly thought was an impending Martian invasion.

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The Wuhan flu’s actual numbers of some 130,000 cases worldwide are a drop in the global bucket and not numerically a bona fide pandemic at all (despite many breathless claims to the contrary), unlike the so-called Spanish flu of a century ago. That crisis was a real pandemic, with half a billion (that’s right; with a “B”) cases worldwide between January of 1918 and December of 1920 and between 17 and 50 million deaths, perhaps as high as 100 million (an astonishingly high mortality rate between 10 and 25 percent), by some estimates, according to The American Journal of Epidemiology. Said mortality rate positively dwarfs that of the Wuhan flu, estimated to be only between 1.7 and three percent.

Nevertheless, the worlds of politics and business have come together to pull a Barney Fife and hopefully take the Wuhan flu and “nip it in the bud” through mass closings and other actions. Between such drastic measures and the cleansing, restorative warmth of spring, mere days away now (influenza viruses tend to die out in warm weather), it is hoped that the virus will simply go away, at least until flu season returns in October, by which time a vaccine may be available.

Duke is hardly alone in its largesse. Municipalities are offering to help people through this by not cutting off their water for nonpayment.

The utility company released a statement Friday, saying it would likewise not cut off customers for nonpayment during this time. It states in part:

“As a provider of an essential service, we are determined to continue delivering the reliable power you need while helping to protect the health and well-being of our community. Since some customers may be facing unusual financial hardships, we are suspending disconnections for nonpayment effective immediately. This applies to all home and business accounts in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. If you have other customer service-related needs, we can help. You can perform nearly all customer service functions online, through our automated voice system or via our mobile app. These are also good ways to stay up to date with the latest information from our company as the impacts of COVID-19 (the Wuhan flu) unfold.”

Duke goes on to state that its staffers are monitoring the guidance from the World Health Organization (or the WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, industry peers and government agencies:

“Based on their input, we’re implementing preventive measures to help keep our employees and others as safe as possible from the spread of the virus. We have implemented travel restrictions and are allowing employees to work in alternative ways to reduce close interaction with others. Our employees who interact with customers will be maintaining a safe distance and using enhanced protective wear.”

The power company is also taking steps to help ensure the stability and continuity of its operations, including resource and supply-chain planning. As the situation evolves, Duke will continue to evaluate and adapt its business continuity plans to meet its commitments.

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