Rebekah Jones, the Florida official responsible for designing and managing the state's coronavirus dashboard has been fired for what she described was due to her opposition to take down vital information from the website. This was done to "drum up support for the plan to reopen," Jones alleged.
As of May 4, Florida's coronavirus dashboard showed data that 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms, some of them as early as on January 1, 2020, just a day after China intimated about the outbreak to the World Health Organization. The next day the data was all gone, Palm Beach Post reported on May 5.
According to the news portal, the data was taken down the same day when reporters asked the state's health department on the issue. China where the disease originated and spread to the rest of the world, reported its first case on Dec. 31, 2019, while Florida officially confirmed its first case two months later, on March 1, 2020.
As per Jones' emails accessed by Tampa Bay Times, Department of Health I.T. Director Craig Curry emailed her on May 5 in which he asked her to immediately "disable the ability to export the data to files from the dashboard". It was to ensure that the dates in all objects matched their counterpart in the PDF. Data in the PDF files did not include dates on when coronavirus symptoms were reported and only included dates when the cases were confirmed. Jones complied but not without telling his superior that it was "the wrong call."
Why Rebekah Jones was Fired?
In an email, Jones told other researchers and members of the public who had signed up to receive updates that she was fired from her job on May 5, Florida Today reported. She also warned them against the new team's intentions, including on "what data they are now restricting." According to her, she did not expect the new team "to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency" that she made part of the keying in process in the first two months.
On Monday, she told CBS12 that her removal was "not voluntary" and she was fired as she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen". On Tuesday, spokeswoman of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis commented on Jones departure in an email to reporters in which she said that Jones "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department." She cited Jones' alleged decision of unilaterally modifying the dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors.
Florida's Dashboard Lauded by Dr. Deborah Birx
The state's Covid-19 dashboard came into the spotlight when the White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx lauded it on April 19. Birx said that she spent about five hours going through every state's website and found Florida's dashboard as "extraordinary."
"This is how we have to inform the American public," Birx said in her TV appearance. But the person behind the "extraordinary" show is out now.