FLORIDA – Just how accurate is the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard?
Dr. Rebekah Jones, a scientist key to the website’s development and operation, has told reporters she was removed from the project earlier this month for refusing to manipulate the data to “drum up support” for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to reopen businesses that had been closed due to the pandemic.
In the email to CBS12, Dr. Jones wrote that her supervisor “has been trying to censor data for some time now, and after I refused to manually change data to drum up support the plan to reopen, she personally saw to it that I was removed.”
A spokeswoman for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has stated Dr. Jones was removed from the dashboard project for insubordination.
“Rebekah Jones 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,” Helen Ferre, the governor’s communications spokeswoman wrote to reporters in an email on May 18.
“The blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website was harmful to the team.”
When asked about Ms. Jones’ at a Tuesday press conference, Gov. DeSantis called it a “non issue.”
The Florida Democratic Party and several elected officials have called for an independent investigation.
Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried praised Ms. Jones in a social media post. “Thank you Rebekah Jones for not being afraid to speak out,” she wrote.
In a May 19 letter to the governor, Commissioner Fried asked for a cabinet briefing about the matter.
“It has come to may attention that Dr. Rebekah Jones, the state employee responsible for the DOH’s COVID-19 dashboard, was not only involuntarily removed from her position after expressing concerns about an order she received to manipulate COVID-19 data, but was fired yesterday by the agency you oversee,” she wrote.
“These actions undermine public trust in our government, are extraordinarily dangerous to public health, and are absolutely inconsistent with the transparency and accuracy that Floridians expect and deserve during this pandemic,” Commissioner Fried continued.
“I therefore request that Surgeon General Rivkees, Dr. Carina Blackmore, Director of Disease Control and Health Prevention, and other parties responsible for these decisions appear before the Cabinet at our next meeting on May 28, 2020 to provide more information and answer questions on the matter. I have instructed my Director of Cabinet Affairs to request that this be placed on the agenda for the Cabinet meeting.
“Our state government’s response to COVID-19 must not only be unified, but also transparent and exercised in good faith. Anything less is a disservice to the 21 million citizens we represent.”