ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Following reports that the state employee in charge of the COVID-19 dashboard was removed after she wouldn’t suppress data, a state cabinet member is calling for an investigation.
“It has come to my attention that Dr. Rebekah Jones, the state employee responsible for the DOH’s (Department of Health) 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,” wrote Commissioner of Agriculture Nicole Fried. “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.”
Fried is requesting that Surgeon General Rivkees and Dr. Carina Blackmore, Director of the Division of Disease Control and Health Prevention appear before the Cabinet at its next meeting on May 28, 2020.
On May 5 Rebekah Jones, the GIS Manager for Florida’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, wrote in an email: “For reasons beyond my division’s control, as of late in the day on May 5, my office (the DOH-GIS office) is no longer managing the COVID-19 Dashboard. I am no longer involved in the publication of data, fixing errors, answering questions, etc., in any shape or form.”
Jones also wrote, “I have no knowledge about their plans, what data they are now restricting, what data will be added and when, or any of that.”
It ended with, “they are making a lot of changes. I would advise being diligent in your respective uses of this data.”
The dashboard created by Jones and her team had received widespread praise from across the state and even as far as the White House.
However, in recent weeks reporters had notices specific fields of data were unavailable including data dealing with when people became infected with the virus, with some saying they felt symptoms as early as January.
The Florida Department of Health has not responded to requests for comment.