Mecklenburg County residents incorrectly sent text saying they were positive for COVID-19

Updated: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some people who tested negative for COVID-19 were incorrectly sent a text message from Mecklenburg County saying they had tested positive for the virus. A software company working with the county said the text was sent because of an issue “during a routine overnight maintenance.”

According to County Manager Dena Diorio the message was sent to 7,268 people Friday either through text message or email.

“At first I thought it was a scam and then I started thinking what if they were looking back through the test results and found out they gave me a false negative so I wasn’t quite sure,” Brenda Palaez said.

Palaez said she received the text message as did other people in her family. Palaez said 14 of 16 people in her family tested positive for COVID-19, including her father who was hospitalized and on a ventilator before recovering.

Palaez was one of two people in her family who tested negative but she still received a text message saying she had tested positive.

“It was scary because I just returned back to work, I don’t even have a month back at work, and now I have to be out of work again?” Palaez said.

A county spokesperson shared a letter from the software company Health Space, which took responsibility of the text message.

“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 letter from Health Space CEO Silas Garrison said.

The letter also said that “All citizens that got a message in error have been sent a subsequent notification informing them of this mistake.”

However Palaez said she never received a second message informing her of the mistake. Similarly while Pastor Andrew Byrd said he received a second message about the error, one of his children and a person working in his office never did.

WBTV has requested an interview with Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris but the county has not scheduled one yet.

While the county says that no personal information was compromised the letter from Health Space does not address that issue.

Health Space says that the issue has been corrected.

The county says it does not notify people about COVID-19 text results via text message.

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