When I decided to launch my Florida COVID Action site on June 11, I had no idea if anyone would care or even notice.
No state in the country had been so plagued by corruption and politics in data reporting as to warrant an “alternative” resource of official information.
But when I was fired as manager of the public data and surveillance data systems at the Florida Department of Health in May, the media attention blew up beyond what I ever imagined.
In the process, an information void was created. Knowing the data the state was pushing was unreliable and untrustworthy, Floridians had nowhere to turn for information about COVID-19 in their state. I felt somewhat responsible for that void and thus felt morally obligated to try to help those who didn’t trust the state.
So I committed myself to continue doing the job of reporting the data and science to the public, free of charge, for as long as they needed it, pulling in all available state datasets to give the people as much information as I could scrape.
I have been living and breathing this project night and day since that time, and the support I’ve received both personally and for my new ‘company’ has been tremendous.
Less than two months later, I watched another problem develop that no state in this country had yet faced: the potential impacts of reopening schools during a pandemic.
Most states closed schools for the year in March, when the number of cases across the entire country was only at about 7,000 total.
Although Governor DeSantis refused to shut down the state for spring break, schools switched to all-online instruction on March 17, when Florida had recorded fewer than 300 total cases of the virus.
Nearly every Florida school district in the state opens up by August 31, with more than 600,000 COVID-19 positive persons tested to date.
If we shut down schools in March because of a few hundred cases state-wide, why are they opening back up when Florida registers thousands of new cases per day?
Teachers started reaching out to me directly with their concerns about the upcoming school year. Concerned about retaliation, they asked if there was a way they could report what was going in schools without being identified.
So I launched a new dashboard to provide teachers, staff, administrators, parents, and even students a way to safely and 100% anonymously report information about cases in schools, even if officials didn’t want to release the information.
I immediately became swamped with reports – not just in Florida, but across the entire country. Hundreds a day. Working on this site and the new schools project became a 20-hours-per-day job. I was exhausted. I was worried that I would neglect either or both projects if I continued to try to handle that work by myself.
So I started reaching out for help. I wrote letters to universities, and academic and professional researchers about my idea for the project: a central database tracking and reporting cases in every school in the country. I even wrote on Twitter that I needed help.
Enter FinMango, a financial literacy non-profit (501c(3)) who shifted gears to COVID-19 education during the pandemic. They had partnered with Google’s COVID-19 Open Data Project, and had the passion, intensity and resources needed for a successful collaboration.
We launched our new joint-venture yesterday, The Covid Monitor.
From our new site you can access our map and data site, report cases in your school safely and anonymously, volunteer your time or donate to the organization. Donations to this project through FinMango are tax-deductible.
I personally will not be compensated for my own time on this project. If you wish to support me or Florida COVID Action, choose one of the buttons below where appropriate.
Support The COVID Monitor through FinMango (a registered 501c(3), donations made here are tax-deductible)
Support Rebekah through her personal GoFundMe site (please review GoFundMe’s policy toward taxation for more info)
Support Florida COVID Action, a registered Florida LLC and social benefits corporation (learn more about B-Corps here)
If you’re a school administrator or state official and would like to connect with us, please email us at: Plans@TheCovidMonitor.com
Members of the media are encouraged to participate in our data collection system, as well. To learn more about how to automate your data reporting with The Covid Monitor, please contact plans@TheCovidMonitor.com
Follow us on Twitter @TheCovidMonitor
Information about our collaboration team:
FinMango is a global non-profit organization on a mission to promote and advance financial inclusion worldwide—however, we recognize the importance of combating COVID-19 and are actively pivoting towards catering to the needs of researchers leading the fight.
Florida COVID Action LLC is a Florida-based social benefits corporation made of scientists specializing in public health research, data science, and data visualization. Founded by Florida scientist and whistleblower Rebekah Jones, Covid Action is committed to data access and transparency during the coronavirus pandemic (and beyond).