Mecklenburg Co. officials blame computer glitch for COVID positive texts hours after calling it a ‘scam’

Meck County says COVID texts were caused by glitch

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County leaders now say a text message sent to residents about positive COVID-19 tests were caused by a glitch in their system, just hours after warning that it was a scam seeking to collect personal information.

County leaders tweeted the warning Friday morning, saying the message was a scam and warning those who received it not to click on the link included in the text.

Officials said public health leaders do not send out COVID-19 testing results through texts.

However, just several hours later, Mecklenburg County officials said the text was not a scam but had been sent out due to a glitch in their system. Officials clarified on Monday that an error during routine maintenance resulted in the erroneous texts and email messages.

In an email to Board members Monday afternoon, County Manager Dena Diorio said no personal information was compromised, and it took Health Space less than an hour to correct the problem.

Officials say Public Health does not text or email positive or negative COVID results to those affected. Everyone who received the incorrect information was contacted again and told to disregard the results.

The text message read, “This is Mecklenburg County Public Health and you are receiving this alert because you have tested positive for COVID-19.” The message then apparently prompts residents to visit a website to answer a questionnaire.

“If you’ve received a text like the one below, do not click the link and do not respond with any private information,” Mecklenburg County health officials said, before back-pedaling that statement later.

WBTV has asked County leaders to explain how a glitch could have caused the texts when it is their policy not to send test results via text message at all.

As of Friday evening, WBTV has not yet heard back.

For some, it was a scary text message to wake up to.

Some people who received the text said they tested negative for the virus. They were surprised to see the alert telling them they had in fact tested positive.

Andrew Byrd battled COVID-19 back at the end of April and spent several weeks in the hospital.

“When I saw it, my first thought was uh-oh," he said.

After hearing the text was a glitch in the system, he says he’s concerned about if other glitches could happen when it comes to COVID-19 data.

“I thought to myself if I’m getting this text, does that mean I’m now counted in the daily positive numbers of tests? Not just the test but the positive results? It gives me a lot of concern," Byrd said.

Atrium Health announced a data breach last week, so WBTV reached out to them to ask if any patient information or coronavirus test results could have been compromised during the breach relating to this text message. They say phone numbers could have been accessed, but there’s no way the breach led to the access to any medical information.

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