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False alert: Early glitches with COVID-19 travel declaration system

The Utah Division of Emergency Management turned off push notifications for the state's new travel declaration order after some state residents got repeated alerts. (PHOTO: Stock image)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Thirteen times. A woman living in Ballard, Utah, approximately 50 miles from the Utah-Colorado border, said she received 13 alerts about traveling into Utah on Easter morning.

Early glitches for new system

The alerts sent to her phone are part of a new system developed by the state to enforce their travel declaration order.

Joe Dougherty, with the Utah Division of Emergency Management, says obviously there are some kinks.

“Yeah 13 alerts is definitely excessive and that’s why we’re looking at making adjustments every single day,” said Dougherty.

Ballard isn’t the only trouble spot, though.

Jean Liddell says she is receiving one or two alerts every single day.

The only problem is she’s at her home in Roosevelt, Utah, which is about an hour away from the Utah-Colorado border. According to her, she hasn’t ventured outside Utah in awhile.

“I haven’t left the state in months and months,” said Liddell. “I don’t even go to Colorado.”

The alert asks her to fill out a survey about COVD-19, because she “just arrived in Utah.”

“It’s like an alarm and it kind of scares the heck out of you when you get it,” she said. “It is irritating, very irritating.”

Growing pains

While it may be irritating to those incorrectly receiving the alert, officials say it’s a necessary tool.

“They make the state of Utah aware of people who are coming into the state and if they’ve experienced symptoms, says Dougherty. “If they’re coming from an area where there’s been widespread transmission.”

Now, his department is busy trying to clean up the early glitches. Temporarily, his office announced Monday afternoon it was turning off the alerts.

People who enter the state will still be expected to fill out the travel declaration, Dougherty said.

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.

Local resources

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 Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States