9 Investigates

Costs mount as OUC works to protect employees, customers amid COVID-19 pandemic

ORLANDO, Fla. — The cost to keep employees and customers safe is going to be hefty for some public and private entities.

The Orlando Utilities Commission has been using a private medical group to help keep its employee safe since early on in the coronavirus pandemic.

Work inside of OUC’s water and power plants never stopped when COVID-19 hit Orlando. The utility company was forced to figure out almost overnight how to keep its essential workers -- those who can’t work from home -- safe.


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“It was tough to find hand sanitizer, so we went and worked with a couple of local distilleries, made face shields in house,” spokesperson Tim Trudell said.

And the public utility company told us it amended an existing contract with the Doctors Center, based in Jacksonville. The utility now pays the group another $75,000 a month to perform about 148 screenings, daily at its Stanton and Pershing work sites and a secondary control center. The cost could rise as more employees return to other work sites like its downtown office building.

City of Orlando officials said the city has already spent about $185,000 on coronavirus-related materials and supplies, and a large portion of that is on personal protective equipment. The city has also received COVID-19-related materials and supplies from the state, Orange County and through donations.

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OUC is in line with at least 267 public and private agencies on a list obtained by 9 Investigates now in need of masks, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, gloves and gowns. A significant number of health care providers, police and fire departments are also awaiting the personal protective equipment listed on the order placed through the county, according to Emergency Field Purchase Order.

So far, the cost of the order tops more than $683,000, in part to implement changes that are likely to come out of the mayor's recovery task force.

“After we pass this pandemic there will be some regulatory changes that will mandate certain types of screenings, certain types of sanitary protocols to be put in place,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said in April.

OUC said one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling to New York City, but never returned to work so other employees weren’t at risk.