Fired Florida Covid Dashboard Architect Claims She Was Asked To Manually Change Numbers

Africa Asia Australia Business Canada Europe Florida News Health Latin America Middle East Science Tech UK Uncategorized USA World

TOPLINE

Rebekah Jones, the architect of Florida’s dashboard that tracks Covid-19 infections and deaths, claims she was fired from her role in May for refusing to manipulate the data to comply with demands from the state’s health department leadership as they pressed forward with reopening the state.

KEY FACTS

Jones told NPR that she was asked to “manually change numbers” a week before the reopening plan kicked off into phase one, as the numbers she presented to the Florida DOH leadership was “the opposite of what they had anticipated.”

While Jones was having a back-and-forth with officials regarding the proposed changes to the data, she claims that the re-opening plan was being printed and stapled right in front of her, implying that “the science behind the… plan didn’t matter,” she added.

Jones said that she complied with the initial requests to change the numbers, as she felt that it wasn’t her place to dictate policy, but later she refused when asked to lower the percentage of positive cases in some counties, to bring them under the re-opening threshold.

Even after removing counties with fewer than 75,000 people, the data did not meet the state officials’ benchmarks, following which they hired a third-party vendor which, “magically… came up with a result that perfectly matched the prewritten plan,” Jones alleges.

Weeks after being fired, Jones created a dashboard of her own, which she claims presents the data in a more complete way and provides context.

Previously a spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had said that Jones had  “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors,” the state is yet to respond to the fresh allegations.

Key Background

Back in April, White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborax Birx had praised Florida’s dashboard in a television interview saying “That’s the kind of knowledge and power we need to put into the hands of American people.” But after the alleged changes to the dashboard, Florida became one of the first U.S. states to begin reopening and had moved on to Phase 2 earlier this month. But since then a surge of cases have forced the government to reinstate some of its earlier lockdown restrictions. Florida has reported more than 8500 new cases each in the past three days, breaking its own previous records and cementing the state as the new outbreak epicenter in the U.S. After originally attributing the spike in cases to increased testing DeSantis acknowledged on Saturday that the rising number of new Covid-19 cases in Florida cannot be explained away by an increase in testing. “Even with the testing increasing or being flat, the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that,” DeSantis told reporters during a briefing at the state capitol. “You know that’s evidence that there’s transmission within those communities.”

Leave a Reply