Rebekah Jones, the former Florida Department of Health data scientist who built her own COVID-19 dashboard, said she will keep the independent website up and running as long as she can afford to.
In late May, Jones said she was fired after she refused to manipulate data in the state’s dashboard to make the case for reopening Florida’s economy. Then, Jones raised more than $170,000 on GoFundMe to launch her own COVID-19 data dashboard.
Jones spoke with WMFE’s Matthew Peddie on Intersection. She said she’s been talking with other state health departments about using data to decide where to distribute a vaccine when it becomes available.
“We know we’re initially going to have a limited supply, and we need to maximize the effectiveness,” Jones said. “So how many vaccines to send and where to create the biggest impact in preventing the spread. So I’ve been in discussions with other states as well.”
Check here to visit Rebekah Jone’s COVID-19 dashboard. A spokesperson for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Jones “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department.”
Jones said she was fired after she refused to manipulate data in the state’s dashboard to make the case for reopening Florida’s economy. She said her supervisors didn’t like a tool she built in the state’s dashboard that drew attention to the fact that the vast majority of Florida counties didn’t meet the state’s own criteria to continue reopening.
“The thing I put my foot down on was going into the actual data and changing numbers so that those counties, mostly rural counties, would meet the criteria to reopen when they didn’t,” Jones said.
Jones said the decisions being made by state officials are not supported by the state’s own data.
“We need to be able to trust the Department of Health, we need to be able to trust our officials who are giving this data to us and saying they are using it to make decisions,” Jones said. “For now, the data still shows that the decisions being made are not supported by the science. So that would lead me to think the data itself is still trustworthy.”