7 On Your Side: ConEd worker tests positive for coronavirus after whistle blowers speak out

NEW YORK (WABC) -- In this new day of social distancing, 7 On Your Side has learned one of New York's biggest companies is sending workers into people's homes to figure out how much they owe.

And Con Edison, the largest utility in the city, was continuing Tuesday to send some employees into people's homes, prompting three meter readers to blow the whistle.

And later, we learned that one Con Edison worker who works in construction in Queens had tested positive for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

Fearing blowback, the whistleblowers asked us not reveal their names or faces. But cell phone video show how dozens of worker are still being directed to go door to door in apartment buildings and residences to conduct meter reads as they would normally.

"It feels like they don't care about us," one worker said. "It feels like we're on the bottom of the totem pole."

Two of them FaceTimed with 7 On Your Side, reporting that they feel reading meters is non essential since the utility can simply generate a bill based on estimated usage.

"We all have parents, we all have children," another said. "We don't want to catch or give the virus to anyone else."

But they say they're still being ordered to go inside homes despite the coronavirus crisis.

"The concern we're having is still having to go into peoples homes not knowing if some are quarantined because they tested positive or because of exposure," one said.

"Yesterday, I went into between 50 and 100 homes," the other said. "This can't be safe."
On Monday, ConEd tweeted that it was not sending employees into homes. But before 9 a.m. Tuesday, the meter readers say they got a text from their supervisor that it was "business as usual."

"Some customers are wondering why you're out there," one said. "One reader came in contact with a lady who said she had flu-like symptoms. What are we supposed to do then? It's just not safe."

A few hours after we told the utility about their field employees' fears, another employee texted us, "We have been instructed to not enter anyone's private residence. We are only to enter businesses also apartment buildings in which there are meter banks and no common living space."

But still, he said there was no word from management, just word of mouth from colleagues without any supervisors advising crews in the field.

A ConEd spokesperson sent out a press release just 45 minutes after we told the utility about the apparent problem, saying the meter readers in Queens weren't given correct instructions but supervisors now have been contacted to communicate the correct procedures, that workers only read meters on the outside of buildings.

Tuesday night, ConEd confirmed that a worker who does construction in Queens -- not a meter reader -- had tested positive for the virus.

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