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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Florida’s Scientist Fired for Refusing to ‘Manipulate’ COVID-19 Data

Rebekah Jones is the architect of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard


USA Today

The scientist who created Florida's COVID-19 data portal wasn't just removed from her position on May 5, she was fired on Monday by the Department of Health, she said, for refusing to manipulate data.

Rebekah Jones said in an email to FLORIDA TODAY that she single-handedly created two applications in two languages, four dashboards, six unique maps with layers of data functionality for 32 variables covering a half a million lines of data. Her objective was to create a way for Floridians and researchers to see what the COVID-19 situation was in real time.

Then, she was dismissed.

After FLORIDA TODAY first reported Jones' removal from her position in charge of the Florida COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard she created, she confirmed, as reported by CBS-12 in West Palm Beach that she was fired because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."

In an email last Friday to researchers and other data users, Jones warned that with her removal changes were likely coming to the accessibility and transparency of the dashboard data.

"They are making a lot of changes. I would advise being diligent in your respective uses of this data," she wrote.

Jones had worked with the Department of Health as a geospatial analyst and then a Geographic Information System (GIS) manager since obtaining her doctorate in Geography from Florida State University in 2018.

She holds a masters of science degree in geography and mass communication from Louisiana State University and a bachelors in Journalism and Geography from Syracuse University.

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