TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The girl who raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 information after being ousted as the information’s curator had been reprimanded a number of instances and in the end fired for violating Well being Division coverage by making public remarks in regards to the data, state information present.
Rebekah Jones’ feedback over the previous week and a half in emails to researchers, interviews with a handful of media shops and weblog posts have sought to sow doubt in regards to the credibility of the information now that she is not in that position.
State well being officers strenuously deny any challenge with the knowledge’s accuracy as Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to make a data-driven case for a step-by-step reopening of the state’s battered financial system following safer-at-home orders. The Republican governor lashed out at a information convention earlier this week saying Jones had a sample of “insubordination” and will have been fired months in the past.
Jones has not alleged any tampering with information on deaths, hospital symptom surveillance, hospitalizations for COVID-19, numbers of latest confirmed circumstances, or total testing charges — core components of any evaluation of the outbreak and of federal standards for reopening. And Jones acknowledges Florida has been comparatively clear — for which she herself claims some credit score — and comparatively profitable in controlling the pandemic.
She has, nevertheless, advised Well being Division managers wished her to control data to color a rosier image and that she pushed again. In an interview late Friday on CNN she lastly cited some element, after a number of days of imprecise statements.
She stated the state made adjustments in April to assist its preliminary reopening Could 4, for instance by altering the way in which it reviews the positivity fee of testing in a method she disagreed with. As an alternative of displaying the speed of all optimistic exams, it started displaying the speed of latest optimistic exams — filtering out individuals who beforehand examined optimistic.
This was not a behind-the-scenes change. DeSantis introduced it at an April 24 information convention, arguing it was the higher determine for assessing traits in testing and management of the outbreak.
Jones additionally stated she opposed how well being officers determined to exempt rural counties beneath 75,000 inhabitants from extra stringent standards for reopening — resembling displaying a downward trajectory of latest circumstances or case positivity previously 14 days. Nonetheless, federal tips enable states to compute standards on the state stage or to tailor a regional method that takes into consideration the severity of outbreak in areas. Florida’s small rural counties have had fewer circumstances and deaths — 21 of them have had no deaths. In such counties, a positive 14-day pattern might simply be upended by a small — however containable — spike in circumstances.
Within the CNN interview, Jones was requested whether or not she was eliminated due to an perspective downside.
“Considerably, sure, if refusing to mislead the general public throughout a well being disaster is insubordination then I’ll put on that badge with honor,” Jones answered.
Florida releases its information day by day in three ways in which Jones helped handle: Stories in textual content and graphics, a dashboard map and a uncooked information hub, together with breakdowns at county and ZIP code ranges. Federal coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Brix has praised Florida’s presentation as particularly granular and user-friendly.
Jones was instructed to resign or be fired final Monday and her final work day was Thursday, after a sample of overstepping her duties as information supervisor. The ultimate straw got here Could 15, when she vented in emails to researchers and different information recipients that she’d been reassigned, suggesting they need to now doubt the information’s integrity.
Paperwork obtained by The Related Press present a supervisor warned Jones on April 9 after she posted a message on a newspaper Fb web page in regards to the dashboard. She was instructed she wants approval earlier than publicly discussing the work. Lower than two weeks later, she was warned once more when a mapping firm’s on-line journal revealed an intensive interview with Jones. Her supervisor later discovered a public weblog through which Jones mentioned the dashboard, launched unauthorized charts and added “political commentary” in posts that seem to have been taken down.
The supervisor, Craig Curry, detailed every incident in an electronic mail to the division’s human assets workplace on Could 6 and was instructed he might start the method of firing her. However in that very same electronic mail, Curry additionally praised Jones, saying she did “improbable work.”
With an experience in geography and tropical storms, Jones, 30, additionally has cited her dismay over Well being Division officers taking down a class subject in line information for particular person COVID-19 circumstances — however says all information was restored later unaltered.
Deputy Secretary for Well being Dr. Shamarial Roberson stated that Jones’s pushback was over the “EventDate” class, which is when a affected person reviews first remembering having doable signs and is separate from when the sickness is confirmed.
“Occasion date isn’t the vital subject,” Roberson stated. “A case is deemed when you will have that laboratory outcome as optimistic.”
Roberson stated Florida’s information is up to date because it turns into obtainable day by day. “Every single day our information is correct, it’s factual, it’s true, it’s clear,” she stated.
Jones has not responded to requests from The Related Press for remark.
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