Travel declaration form sent to cellphones in cars on Highway 191
Officials claim early success during the first day travelers to Utah were asked to complete a COVID-19 travel declaration form when entering the state.
“This is very preliminary, but the results seem positive,” said John Gleason, of the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) late on April 10, the day when an emergency alert system was first used. The system was implemented after an order by Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
Beginning April 10, travelers began to receive an emergency alert message on their cell phones when they passed through nine locations in the state, including in San Juan County on Highway 191 near Monticello.
Joe Dougherty, spokesman for the Utah Division of Emergency Management, explains that when cars pass through a “geo-fenced” area on Highway 191 near Monticello, they are sent a Public Safety Alert message by the cell phone carriers. The geo-fenced-area is a rectangular-shaped polygon which is approximately eight miles long.
Other locations in Utah where travelers are “geo-targeted” include interstate highways I-15, I-80, I-70, and I-84 at the state lines, Highway 89 near Kanab, Highway 40 near Vernal, and the Salt Lake City International Airport.
The message is sent to each cell phone passing through the area, regardless of where the phone owner lives. As a result, local residents will receive the message if they pass through the geo-fence, even though the alert system is primarily focused on out-of-area visitors and not on local residents.
“We are not tracking compliance and have no database of the people who are notified,” said Dougherty, who stated that the Governor’s orders do not include enforcement provisions.
“We are not restricting travel or commerce and will not stop any vehicle, but are just asking people to do what they are asked,” explained Dougherty. “The information we receive from travelers is so beneficial”
Dougherty said that the message should be sent only one time to each phone. He added that the state does not receive any information from the cellular companies about who received the message or even how many were sent out.
Dougherty explains that notifications are sent through the same system that handles the emergency alert system, including the Amber Alert notifications. He added that Utah is the first state to deploy the emergency alert system this way to fight the virus.
The officials state that the information received from the COVID-19 travel declaration form will be used by the Utah Department of Health to help the state manage the global pandemic caused by the virus.
When motorists stop driving, they are asked go to a website (https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/c7bfcd7771134d72803ea210e7a17409) to fill out the travel declaration.
The survey includes a number of questions primarily focused on the respondent’s health history, including if they are symptomatic, have had a COVID-19 test, and where they have traveled over the past two weeks. The survey also asks for name, birthdate and contact information.
The form states: “Each person 18 years of age and older entering Utah must submit an electronic State of Utah Travel Declaration Form, as ordered by the Governor, to inform individuals of Utah's current COVID-19 related restrictions and declare information that will be used by the Utah Department of Health to help track and trace COVID-19 infections that may arise from persons who enter the state of Utah from national or international travel.”
The Utah Coronavirus website has a list of frequently asked questions about the travel form at https://coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-to-alert-drivers-entering-utah/#FAQ .