‘Vulgar’ text messages sent by employee contracted by Utah health department

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FILE – In this Oct. 24, 2013, file photo, a person checks their smartphone in Glenview, Ill. A mysterious wave of texts swept America’s phones overnight Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, delivering unintelligible messages that left many people mildly confused when they woke up on Thursday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

VERNAL, Utah (ABC4) – An employee from a contracted company is being blamed for responding to automated text messages with “inappropriate, offensive, and vulgar language” to 52 Utahns.

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The TriCounty Health Department (TCHD) took to Facebook to explain the incident, saying they and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) had hired a private texting service, Public Results, to send information via text message about where and how people can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pre-scripted text messages and responses were developed before the service started and began sending on Friday.

TCHD says an employee of Public Results “took it upon themself to respond to text messages with inappropriate, offensive, and vulgar language.” In total, 52 individuals received these responses.

“Once UDOH and TCHD became aware of what happened, the texting campaign was immediately canceled,” TCHD says. “The company that sent the responses issued an apology and was fired. We vetted this company before hiring them and reached out to other agencies that had successfully used their services both in Utah and across the country. The inappropriate language and responses were NOT approved by either the TCHD or UDOH and we sincerely apologize to everyone who received the messages. As important as the vaccines are to the health of our community, we will find other ways to continue to educate the public as to the importance of receiving the vaccine.”

Those that received the inappropriate texts then received a follow-up message from Public Results, which reads:

Hi, this is Jessica with Public Results, a private texting service. You recently received a text in error on behalf of TriCounty Health Department that was not approved by the Department. This text was sent by a bad actor, and it is in no way reflective of the professionalism and mission of TCHD. I am so sorry for the message you received and any harm it may have caused.

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