Friday, June 5, 2009

Supply Train Problem at the MTC: An Unusual Aspect of Running the MTC During the Swine Flu Epidemic

Today I read a fascinating account of the back end of running the MTC during the swine flu epidemic. In an earlier post I described missionaries perspectives toward one another and their perception and fear of getting sick from one another. Now a person who works in distribution at BYU tells us about supply problem when vendors are afraid to deliver goods to a place where they might become exposed to the virus.

On the Motley Crew we read of "Duke" Clark's problems in getting vendors to bring in the goods to feed the two thousand missionaries and 6,600 meals that are served each day to the teachers and missionaries.

Here is his account from two days ago on the Motley Crew (Clark Family) blog:

Today was a tough day at work because the story broke last night at 5:20 p.m. that there were three confirmed cases of Swine Flu at the MTC. I did not know that until this morning when I got to work and saw the BYU paper with the headline. I knew they had some cases of type A flu, but not Swine flu. So here is what is happening in case some of you have heard it on the news.

Three elders got the Swine flu (brought in by someone's family member but I don't know where they were from). It takes about 48 hours to get a confirmation that it is actually Swine flu. Two of the elders are already fine and back to class but one is still in isolation. About 22 elders total have the type A flu. As a result of this, a decision that had been made earlier but wasn't going to take place until September is now in effect. That decision is that no family members can go inside the buildings with their missionary when they bring them to the MTC. All they can do is stop at the curb, let the missionary out and say goodbye and then drive off. There will be ushers to help them with their luggage. Apparently one elder had 75 family members in tow and officials said they could not handle crowds as large as that. It creates problems with security and they don't have enough room for that many people. As of tomorrow (Wednesday is the drop-off day every week), the families will not be allowed into the MTC buildings. That will be a permanent plan, not just for this flu outbreak.

I scrambled around all day long looking for disposable goods, especially cutlery that was wrapped. They figure this will probably last until about June 15, but it may be fine by next Monday. Some vendors freaked out and said they wouldn't deliver to any place that has Swine flu so I had to make arrangements for them to deliver to our building rather than to the MTC. Other vendors said they thought the whole blown-up issue of Swine flu was ridiculous and they would deliver directly to the MTC no matter what. I had to call all the vendors that deliver to the MTC and speak to them, reassuring them but also giving them the option as to where they could deliver their goods.

When you think about it, it's quite miraculous that there has been as little health issues as there are at the MTC considering how many missionaries come from all over the world. They have jumped right on this and have handled it very professionally without unneccessary alarm.

There are 140 missionaries waiting to be shipped to their destinations, but the MTC is not sending them out for a while. They get 500 new ones tomorrow. What's mind boggling is how many meals they will be preparing for the next week -- 6600 per day! Do you realize how much food that is?!? I personally think the MTC itself is a miracle. They handle so many people on a day-to-day basis that it's quite remarkable.

I've said it before and I'll say it now -- my job is rarely boring!
It really is amazing how a mini-disaster in Provo, Utah like this can have some rippling effects that we don't really consider like how to get people to continue doing business when they are afraid they could get ill just by going near a place. I wonder if hospitals experience similar problems with vendors. I really have learned a lot by reading the various twists and turns involved with this virus outbreak.

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