More than 6,700 people in Mecklenburg County received text messages from the county’s health department Friday that they had tested positive for COVID-19. And more than 500 people got to know the same news via a county email.
But it was a mistake.
It is not known how many of the thousands who received the messages actually have COVID-19, had tested positive at some point or never had coronavirus. Either way, none of them should have gotten such a text or email from the county because the county does not give people results that way.
Kl. At 9:30 a.m. Friday, the county tweeted that these messages from the health department were a scam: “Public health does not send COVID-1
But five hours later, the county updated its tweet: “These texts were sent due to a technical flaw in the software system that the software vendor has addressed.”
In an email Monday, County Chief Dena Diorio told county commissioners the texts were sent via the British Columbia-based HealthSpace Data System.
The county began using software from the Canadian company in late May to help with case investigations and contact tracing – part of a contract worth $ 157,800 over five years.
Diorio said 6,727 text messages and 541 emails were sent to people already in the HealthSpace system. This means that they could have tested positive for COVID-19 once – and probably already recovered – or they may have had close contact with someone who had the new coronavirus.
The seller sent a corrected text or email to anyone who had received incorrect information, Diorio said in the email to the commissioners. It is not known if some people received erroneous texts as well as emails.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause to citizens who do not send an alarm or inquiry,” HealthSpace CEO Silas Garrison said in a statement Friday.
Problems tracking contracts
Friday’s error was another stumbling block for contact tracking, with the public being asked to provide confidential health information in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Case investigators – the first layer in the contact tracking process – are trained in examining contact persons’ names, employers, telephone numbers and home addresses, among other details.
Contact trackers then use this information to call people who were potentially exposed. The county uses HealthSpace software to automate some parts of the contact tracking process.
From the start of the pandemic, Mecklenburg’s director of public health, Gibbie Harris, has described residents’ mistrust or unwillingness to abide by contracts.
The difficulty of tracking may be exacerbated by the scale of coronavirus cases where Mecklenburg now registers more than 27,000 infections.