Utah will deploy a single Wireless Emergency Alert statewide due to rising case counts

Utah reported record case counts for COVID-19 today.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, there are a number of people who are not aware of the dire situation we find ourselves in.

Today, we will issue a single Wireless Emergency Alert statewide as a brief interruption to make sure nearly everyone is aware of the serious nature of the pandemic.

The alert will feature the following text:

State of Utah: COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. Record cases. Almost every county is a high transmission area. Hospitals are nearly overwhelmed. By public health order, masks are required in high transmission areas. Social gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer. Visit coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels to see your county’s information. Be careful!

FAQs and known concerns

What areas are going to be alerted?
This alert will be sent statewide.

Who will receive the alert?
The alert is intended to go to everyone within the state of Utah who has a WEA-capable mobile phone. Because the technology for sending the alert is not perfect and not all phones have the same alerting protocols built in, some people may not receive the alert directly.

How long will the alert be active?
The alert will become active at 2 p.m. on Friday, October 30, 2020, and will remain active for 15 minutes. This should mitigate the repeat alert problem we’ve seen with alerts deployed for long durations.

What do I do if I receive the alert?
Please visit the website link in the alert to become familiar with the different transmission levels in the state. Our goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system.

If you’d like to participate in our survey to measure the effectiveness and reach of the alert, please take our survey here: https://forms.gle/Xy3r46sCpKBge2wv9

What if I didn’t receive the alert on my phone?
There are a number of reasons this can happen and they are outside of the State’s control.

  • You may have opted out of receiving government alerts.
  • Your phone may not be capable of receiving the alerts or the full message. Verizon has a list of WEA-capable phones here and the level of WEA capability they have. Most carriers have the same list of phones
  • Your carrier may not have sent the alert appropriately.
  • You may have been out of range of a cell phone tower that was broadcasting the alert.
  • Your nearest cell phone tower may not have correctly transmitted the alert.
  • You may have been using a significant amount of data or been on a phone call at the time and the alert did not interrupt that data stream.
  • Your phone may have been off.
  • Help us provide feedback to the FCC by taking our survey here: https://forms.gle/Xy3r46sCpKBge2wv9

How accurate is the targeting of these messages?
Because the technology is not perfect, sometimes people who are miles away from an intended area may receive the alert. Sometimes people may not receive an alert. We tend to have a problem in Utah with Verizon phones not receiving these alerts. Help us provide feedback to the FCC by taking our survey here: https://forms.gle/Xy3r46sCpKBge2wv9

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. If your phone is on silent, you will not hear the tones.

What good is it going to do?
Remember, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is deadly for some. It causes severe symptoms in others. The number of people who are being hospitalized is unsustainable. If we can just get this message in everyone’s hands, we believe more people will take action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Though many people have experienced mild cases of the disease, we need to err on the side of caution and protect those around us who may be more vulnerable by wearing a mask, limiting our social gatherings and getting tested when we have symptoms.

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

What data do you have about me?
The State of Utah receives no data about the cell phone owners who receive this message. WEAs are sent using cell broadcast technology, which pushes information to cell phone towers, delivers the information to cell phones in range and does not report back how many users receive the message.

You remain anonymous to us.

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.
To provide feedback on the quality of the alert, please fill out our survey here. https://forms.gle/Xy3r46sCpKBge2wv9