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Utah begins sending wireless emergency alerts to people entering its borders

Posted at 7:15 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 19:51:52-04

SALT LAKE CITY — People entering Utah via its interstate and U.S. highway entry points are beginning to receive wireless emergency alerts that direct them to fill out a brief declaration about COVID-19.

"These are extraordinary times, and Utah is taking extraordinary measures like using this technology (which we have never used in an instance like this before). There may be some kinks here and there, but it’s absolutely essential to help us stop the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19," a news release from the Utah Division of Emergency Management said.

The alerts will automatically go to cellphones capable of receiving wireless emergency alerts from the government, and they'll direct people entering the state to visit entry.utah.gov and answer a few questions.

People who take flights to Salt Lake City International Airport are also required to fill out the declaration before they leave the airport.

The declaration form asks people entering the state to identify themselves and provide information about any COVID-19 symptoms they may have. The form includes questions about the person's age, residence, telephone number, email address and other locations they've recently visited.

If a person declares they have COVID-19 or the symptoms of COVID-19, a tracing team will contact that person to begin quarantine.

The Division of Emergency Management provided answers to this list of frequently-asked questions:

What areas are going to be alerted?

  • I-15 at the Arizona border
  • US-89 at Big Water
  • US-491/191 at Monticello
  • I-70 at the Colorado border
  • US-40 at the Colorado border
  • I-80 at the Wyoming border
  • I-15 at the Idaho border
  • I-84 at the Idaho border
  • I-80 at the Nevada border

Who will receive the alert?

The alert is intended to go to motorists that are crossing the border into Utah. Because the technology is not perfect, sometimes people who are miles away may receive the alert. People who receive the alert and have not recently crossed the border into Utah do not need to fill out the declaration form.

How long will the alert be active?

The alert will become active at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020, and will remain active until 11:59 p.m. on May 1, 2020.

What do I do if I receive the alert?

If you are a motorist, please fill out the declaration form the next time you stop. Do not fill it out while driving. That should only happen if a passenger can fill out the survey safely.

If you receive the alert and did not recently cross the border, you can ignore it.

Will I be stopped if I don't fill out the declaration form?

If you are a motorist, you will not be stopped for failing to fill out the declaration form. But please follow our state laws and stay safe on our roadways.

What if I cross a state border every day for work?

We expect each motorist will fill out the declaration form one time. The alert system and your phone should work together to ensure that you receive the alert only one time. In some cases, phones may receive the alert multiple times. This is beyond our control.

How accurate is the targeting of these messages?

Unfortunately, we can't separate inbound and outbound traffic, so motorists who are leaving the state will also receive the wireless emergency alert. Those motorists can ignore the alert until they return to Utah. But once you return, we expect you to fill out the declaration form at entry.utah.gov

Because the technology is not perfect, sometimes people who are miles away may receive the alert. We are asking your forgiveness because we are trying a new use of this technology to track a disease that has already killed 13 people in Utah and sickened many others.

What will the alert sound like?

Phones that are WEA-capable will make unique tones and vibrations that may be similar to the Emergency Alert System tests seen on TV.

What good is it going to do?

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) is collecting the data and will securely transfer that data to the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) for their awareness. Remember, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is deadly. The data submitted through this program helps in our efforts to trace and mitigate the disease. We are able to inform travelers about public orders in Utah, and we are able to isolate incidents and notify anyone who may be affected.

You can learn more about keeping yourself and others safe at coronavirus.utah.gov and by following UtahCoronavirus on Twitter and Facebook.

What if someone declares symptoms on the form or says they are infected with COVID-19? Will they be barred from entering the state?

If someone enters on their declaration that they are exhibiting symptoms, someone from the Utah’s tracing team will contact and get them quarantined. Having this information will help trace and mitigate the spread.

How will data be kept safe?

The State of Utah will store personal and health-related information collected from the declaration form in a secure environment and will limit who has access to the data. All personal and health-related information will be transferred to the Utah Department of Health for any needed follow-up. Summary information only will be compiled and no unique identifiers will be provided for any public reporting.

What are the ramifications to someone coming into the state? Can they be turned away if they are showing symptoms?

This is simply a data-gathering process. This executive order requires visitors to declare any COVID-19-related symptoms and recent travel information to the state. The goal is to track, trace and mitigate. This is not a complete picture but it’s complementary to other data collection systems.

Are truckers also required to fill out this form?

Yes. The Governor’s Executive Order is intended for all adults who enter the state of Utah, on our roads and at the Salt Lake International Airport.

What if the motorist or trucker is only driving through Utah and doesn’t actually stop anywhere in the state?

The Governor’s Executive Order states that all travelers over the age of 18 who enter the state must complete the form within three hours of arriving in the state. Please keep in mind that the form should only be completed in a safe location, and not while driving, unless a passenger can do it safely.

As a trucker, I have been to more states during the last two weeks than the form allows space for.

Beginning with the most recent states you have visited, please list as many as the form allows you to list.

Why aren’t non-electronic methods of data collection being offered?

Paper forms will not be offered because they introduce the need for additional resources, methods of collection, and pose the risk of spreading COVID-19 as a result of handling and processing of forms and pencils.

What if I have questions?

For health-related questions about coronavirus, contact the Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707.

For emotional relief and support, please call 1-833-442-2211.

Please also visit coronavirus.utah.gov.