Thousands of North Carolina residents were recently told they had positive coronavirus tests, but it was a mistake.
More than 6,700 individuals in Mecklenburg County in North Carolina were told in a text message sent from Mecklenburg County Health Department on Friday that they tested positive for COVID-19 and over 500 people were told through a county email that they were also infected with the novel coronavirus. But the results were incorrect due to a technical error by Health Space, the company they use for contact tracing, according to a statement on the county’s website.
“An error during routine maintenance last Friday resulted in a county data vendor sending erroneous texts and email messages to people saying they were positive for COVID-19,” the statement on the county website said.
County Manager Dena Diorio sent an email to the Board of County Commissioners Monday afternoon that was posted to the government website.
The error affected thousands of residents.
“Very quickly we began to work with the vendor to understand the issue and make sure that it did not continue. Once corrected we were told that 6,727 text messages and 541 emails were sent to individuals who were already in their system. We then worked with the vendor to send a corrected text/email to all that received the erroneous one,” the email stated in part.
At first, the county said the messages were a scam, stating in their tweet, “Public Health does not send out COVID-19 testing results via text message. If you’ve received a text like the one below, do not click the link and do not respond with any private information.”
But hours later, the county sent out a tweet stating, “These texts were sent due to a technical glitch in the software system that has been addressed by the software provider.”
The county has been using Health Space since May to help with contact tracing, Diorio told county commissioners in an email.
“During a routine overnight maintenance, there was an issue that resulted in one batch of daily COVID-19 alerts being sent to individuals that were not supposed to receive them. The cause of this issue was identified, and remedied, within 30 minutes of the initial report,” Health Space CEO Silas Garrison said in a statement.
“We apologize for any alarm this caused citizens who were not supposed to be sent an alert or survey,” Garrison also stated in the letter.
The county website stated no personal information had been compromised and it took less than an hour for Health Space to correct the issue. It also stated, “Public Health does not text or email positive or negative COVID results to those affected.”
Officials said on the county site that anyone who received the incorrect information was contacted and told to disregard the results.