Former Florida scientist running online dashboard to track COVID-19 cases in Florida schools

ORLANDO, Fla. — After she was fired from the Florida Department of Health, scientist Rebekah Jones said she started to receive messages from teachers saying there were COVID-19 cases in their local school programs, but they didn’t know if those cases were being logged anywhere.

So she got to work.

Jones started her own dashboard, working alongside Google and a nonprofit logging COVID-19 cases at schools across the state.

READ: Orange County Public Schools confirms 21 COVID-19 cases among students, employees

“Every authoritative source in the state that’s producing data, I pull it in,” she said.

FDOH fired Jones back in May. It stated it was for insubordination. Jones said it was because she refused to manipulate data.

Channel 9 asked the state about Jones' claims about changing data, and it stated she "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."

READ: 150 people in quarantine from 9 Seminole County schools after possible COVID-19 exposure since school started, district says

Once she was let go, she persisted in her push to publish information.

“It’s honestly all stuff I would have been pushing to do if I was still at the Department of Health,” Jones said.

Her website also allows people to anonymously report cases that her team then works to verify by calling school districts and contacting health departments.

READ: Florida Department of Health starting to track COVID-19 cases at day cares for the first time since pandemic began

“Now more than ever, we need communities to tell us what’s going on because we do not have the local, state or federal accountability that we really should right now,” Jones said.

On Tuesday, the health department announced it will publish a finalized report on cases associated with schools. The draft it shared didn’t break down cases by specific schools, which is something Jones is working hard to do on her site.

“If I can, and I can do it right, and do it effectively and help people, that’s what I’m going to do,” she said.

Click here to visit Jones’ dashboard.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.