SALT LAKE CITY (KSL.com)– Mobile travel alerts were instituted last week in an effort to track people who were entering the state of Utah so health officials could coordinate in case those people needed treatment or assistance.
The alerts were intended to be pushed to mobile devices for people who were driving into the state in certain highway areas just inside the border.
However, the system didn’t work as officials hoped, according to Utah Department of Emergency Management spokesman Joe Dougherty. The alerts were pushed to some people who were in their homes, sometimes far away from the border, he said.
As of 12:17 p.m. Monday, the alerts have been canceled, and the state does not anticipate using such a system for pandemic-related purposes, he said.
“It was a really bold experiment,” Dougherty said, noting that Utah was the first state in the nation to attempt any sort of mobile notification system for travel orders.
Some people received the alert at their homes in St. George, the Uinta Basin and Oneida County, Idaho, according to Dougherty. People were receiving the alerts 15-20 times, with some people reporting they received it 30 times, he said.
The department of emergency management narrowed the areas where alerts were being pushed, and the system showed signs of improvement Monday, but officials ultimately decided to cancel the alerts, Dougherty said.
Moving forward, people will still be asked to voluntarily fill out the declaration at entry.utah.gov, but will be notified using electronic Utah Department of Transportation signs along highways, instead of mobile alerts, Dougherty said.
Several thousand people completed the travel declaration as a result of the alerts, which helped the health department gather some important data, Dougherty said.
Though the mobile alert technology won’t be used again for coronavirus purposes, the technology is available to the state and may be used in other future scenarios, he said.