Commissioners call inadvertent COVID text message “unacceptable”

Commissioners: Extra comma in code caused false text to go out

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County Commissioners voiced strong concern about an erroneous text message sent to more than 7,000 people telling them they tested positive for COVID-19. A software company called Health Space admitted fault for the error, but commissioners say more is needed.

During the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, commissioners sounded off about a text message sent last Friday.

“Completely unacceptable. They should be here tonight,” Commissioner Mark Jerrell said.

The software company Health Space says a glitch during routine overnight maintenance caused the text messages to go out. New Tuesday night Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris says she was told that an extra comma in the code caused the error.

Commissioner Pat Cotham said the company should be offering to pay for the damage it caused.

“They should have done more. I mean where is their Mea Culpa?” Cotham asked.

Harris said the county would never send test results via text. While the county has guaranteed that no personal information was compromised, that’s not mentioned in the letter sent to commissioners by Health Space.

“Usually health care technology companies are super cautious about this. This is like the worst thing that could happen to a health care technology company,” Commissioner susan Harden said.

Harris said the county’s attorneys will be reaching out to Health Space to talk about next steps and while the company says this mistake won’t be repeated, Harris didn’t want to make any guarantees.

“I’m not going to say never but we will do everything in our power to make sure this does not happen again,” Harris said.

WBTV has reached out to Mecklenburg County several times requesting an interview on the text message. So far no interview has been granted.

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