Florida officials investigate LSU alum's claim of being fired for refusing to cover-up virus data
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - The scientist responsible for Florida's coronavirus data portal says she was fired for refusing to fudge data to support the state's decision to reopen and now a state cabinet member is calling for an investigation.
Rebekah Jones told USA TODAY that despite creating detailed applications for tracking Florida's coronavirus situation in real-time, she was dismissed from her state job. Jones said she wasn't just reassigned on May 5 but fired from her position as Geographic Information Systems manager for the Florida Department of Health.
"I worked on it alone, sixteen hours a day for two months, most of which I was never paid for, and now that this has happened I'll probably never get paid for," Jones wrote in an email.
According to ABC affiliate, WFTV, when Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, Nicole Fried, heard about the situation she responded by writing to state officials,"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.”
“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 has requested that Surgeon General Rivkees and Dr. Carina Blackmore, Director of the Division of Disease Control and Health Prevention both appear before the Cabinet at its next meeting, which is Thursday, May 28.
According to the Advocate, Jones earned her masters of science degrees in geography and mass communication from LSU.
Jones went on to confirm Tuesday that she was fired after she was ordered to censor some data but refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."
WFTV reports that prior to her firing, the dashboard she and her team created received widespread praise from across the state, even as far as the White House.
But, in recent weeks users noticed that 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.
At this time, Florida's Department of Health has not responded to requests for comment.
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