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State launches COVID-19 travel declaration, Utahns near borders have complaints
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State launches COVID-19 self-declaration directive, Utahns near borders have complaints

(Overhead sign by the Utah/Wyoming border. Credit: Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News, April 10, 2020)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – The governor’s COVID-19 self-declaration directive is now in effect.  State officials are asking people driving and flying into the state to give them a brief history of their health and travel.  However, they’re not expecting the system to run perfectly on the first day.

People living near the border of Utah may notice a lot more text alerts on their phone than normal.  One family in St. George tells KSL they’ve received repeated texts since the alerts were pushed out Friday afternoon, even though they’ve just been sitting at home.  They describe the alert as “the loud, obnoxious Amber Alert beeping sound” which can’t be turned off.

(Sample of text alert. Credit: Marc Giauque, KSL Newsradio)

This is one of the problems state officials were worried may happen on the first day of the COVID-19 self-declaration directive.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson says, “Some of you who are innocent and not wanting to receive those notifications may receive a notification.”

Anderson says the system will get more accurate over time, but why would a glitch like this happen in the first place?

“There are times when a cell phone tower that is well outside of the designated alerting area may still receive that message and may broadcast it,” explains Department of Emergency Management Spokesman Joe Dougherty.

State officials are also trying to clear up some questions about the tech used to send out the messages.  Dougherty says it’s a system they’ve used for several years, called WebEOC and it’s one of the programs designed to work with systems set up by FEMA and the FCC to send out critical information.  However, Dougherty says they don’t track which cell phones get the alert.

He says, “Cell phones that happen to enter the geo-fenced area are pinged just with that alert.  We retain no data on cell phones.  We won’t even know how many people actually received that message.”

People who click on the link in the text are then asked to fill out the COVID-19 self-declaration travel form, which asks people if they’ve been tested for coronavirus if they feel any symptoms and where they’ve been in the past two weeks.  Dougherty says that information is sent securely to the Department of Health, so they can better trace the movement of the virus.

Safety officials say filling out the declaration is still completely voluntary, plus, some groups of people won’t be asked to do it.  Commissioner Anderson says active military, health care providers, state workers and commercial truck drivers are exempt.

“It’s not to effect commerce or the trucking industry as far as coming and going out of the state.”

State officials say there are no checkpoints at the state borders, and traffic will not be slowed down at all.

 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus 

 

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading: 

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.  
  • Don’t touch your face. 
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet) 
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.) 
  • Get a flu shot. 

Resources for more information: 

 

LOCAL: 

State of Utah:  https://coronavirus.utah.gov/ 

Utah State Board of Education 

Utah Hospital Association 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707 

National Links 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization 

Cases in the United States