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State pulls plug on Utah travel text message for COVID-19
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State pulls plug on Utah travel text message for COVID-19

(A sample of the text message sent to people driving through Utah state borders. Provided by Marc Giauque, KSL Newsradio.)

UTAH STATE CAPITOL – The state is sorry for “annoying” so many people with the Utah travel text message for COVID-19.

Emergency officials say they’ve turned off the text alert system aimed at all drivers coming through Utah’s state borders, urging them to fill out a COVID-19 health declaration.  They admit the texts went out to far more people than they intended.

People living in cities like Ballard and Roosevelt told KSL they’ve been swarmed with unnecessary Utah travel text messages for COVID-19 over the weekend, asking them to go to the state’s website and fill out the health declaration.  It was supposed to ask people just arriving in the state if they feel any symptoms of coronavirus, if they’ve been tested for it and where they’ve been over the past two weeks.

Utah Department of Emergency Management Spokesman Joe Dougherty says they’ve received reports of people getting up to 30 of these alerts.

He says, “Some people got, clearly, an annoying number of messages.”

Given the way the alert system worked, state officials were never given access to the specific phones that passed through the geo-fenced area along the borders.  However, they have a rough estimate on how many people got the alert.

Dougherty says, “The best data that we have is that we ended up with well over 10,000 people that actually went to the survey.  So, we know there were in the thousands who received it.”

The state still wants people driving into the state and flying into the airports to fill out the declaration, but drivers will be told about it in a different way.

“Now, they will just be alerted with an electronic sign either on the side of the road or overhead,” he says.

(One of the overhead signs over I-80 near the Utah-Wyoming border. Credit: Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News, April 10, 2020)

Will this kind of alert be used, again, in the future?  Probably.  However, Dougherty says they still have some bugs they need to get out of the system.

“I don’t expect that we’ll be using it for coronavirus, but, just know, this technology is alive and well in case we need to issue Amber Alerts or other types of emergency messages for Utahns,” he says.

 

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