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Letter to the Community

We feel blessed to be a part of the Pullman-Moscow community, with its natural beauty and deep “Land Grant” roots in science, agriculture, and technology.

At a time when many parts of the country are struggling greatly, we can appreciate all the more this special community we share. We’re truly ONE community, one with a state line passing through it.  This line is not a factor in the propagation of disease, and hardly a factor at all in where we live, work, raise our families, shop, and dine.

By the quick and certain actions of leaders in our two universities, in our medical community, and in business, we in Whitman and Latah counties have largely avoided coronavirus infections.  With the few cases we’ve experienced, prompt isolation, testing and contact tracing have squelched its spread.

I’m writing to share with you a few of the steps SEL is taking at work, at our homes, and in our community.  Our overarching goals are to stay healthy, to avoid the introduction and spread of the virus, and, at the same time, serve the critical electric power industry.

1. We’ve encouraged working from home, when possible.  Some work requires “being there” physically.  Other work does not.  So, we go in, if we must.  We don’t if we don’t need to.  This automatically increases social distances.
2. We’ve encouraged and accommodated more vulnerable folks to take extra precautions, including folks over 65, and with pre-existing conditions as well as compromised immune systems.
3. The SEL Clinic folks are in frequent communications with other medical professionals in our community, including the public health experts.
4. Executives meet daily, to review data and new ideas, to share new regulations and science, and to make decisions as necessary to tune things up.
5. A few employee owners at home and around the world have unfortunately contracted the coronavirus.  They were happy to immediately isolate themselves, and wait for test results.  We’ve also tested their immediate contacts, and immediately advised less-immediate contacts.  
6. We’ve augmented our building operator team, in some cases by hiring folks who were idled from other activities in our community, to significantly increase the frequency and depth of cleaning.
7. We routinely test surfaces for germs, and thereby know we are getting them clean.
8. By sharing knowledge with our employee-owners, they’re empowered to come up with creative solutions tailored to their daily activities.  It’s rewarding to see novel and practical solutions emerge!  I believe our folks understand the importance of getting it right…to themselves, to our community, to our customers and suppliers, and to our company.
9. We have drastically limited travel…to the point that many of our pilots are enjoying temporary stints in manufacturing, since they are not flying.
10. We were already quite adept at meeting electronically; and now we’re even better at it.  It’s routine:  even when people are on the SEL campus, they often meet electronically instead of getting together.
11. We keep everyone on the same page with frequent communications…thereby ensuring folks take personal responsibility at home and at work, in manners that work the best for every individual’s circumstances.
12. SEL folks are tied into folks at WSU, UI, the hospitals, physicians, and surgeons.  We also have solid lines of communications with the governments of Washington, Idaho, and many other states.
13. SEL is transforming its annual October sales meeting into a virtual event for the first time to keep our employees and community safe.
14. Many of our technical seminars have become many times larger, as more customers and employee-owners participate without travel and risk.  Seems like a lot of “new normal” is beginning to emerge.

Our community faces a major challenge:  higher education is one of our biggest services, and not everything can or should be done “on line.”  So, how can our community safely welcome 30, 000 students returning to WSU and UI to pursue their higher-education dreams and aspirations?  Assuming a one-percent infection rate suggest that some 300 infected students could return to our community.

Here’s some ideas that I believe are in practice, under consideration, or in the works, at our universities, at SEL, and in our community:

1. We encourage students get tested before they return to school.
2. Perhaps the universities would engage their students with a “Cougar Commitment” and a “Vandal Pledge” to follow good hygiene, maintain social distancing, monitor their own health, wear masks as required, and to realize they have responsibilities to themselves and others…as we all do.
3. We should plan for periodic testing throughout our community, to ensure we’re staying safe.
4. Positive-tested individuals must isolate.  This has been working well, and should continue.
5. There is a heightened risk to the vulnerable in our community, so we must be extra careful and considerate to protect them.
6. Our hospitals and surgeons may have amassed a backlog of work over the past few months.  Catching up before any possible coronavirus surge seems prudent.
7. SEL will be taking even more precautions as the academic year begins and unfolds.  We have a duty to keeping the lights on at home and around the world, that we will not let slide.

We count amongst our blessings our roots in the Palouse, and our opportunities to serve the critical infrastructure of electric power.  We love helping move energy at the speed of light!

We’re well engaged with both universities, and I’ve been in contact with their presidents.  We’re sharing our thoughts and plans with each other, as well as with our hospitals, and their peers in Lewiston, Clarkston, and elsewhere. 

SEL is a global company, and we’re engaged appropriately wherever our folks are serving our industry.

It feels good to be able to pick up the phone or meet by computer with the university folks, mayors, hospital leadership, physicians and surgeons, and many others…to come up with the right solutions for our community, a community not bounded by state or county lines, but united in life, work, family, and faith. 

We will get back to pursuing our dreams, probably in new way, often even better ways.  And, we’re making daily progress.

As a community.

Edmund O. Schweitzer, III  PhD
President, Chief Technology Officer and Chairman of the Board