A US scientist who created Florida’s COVID-19 data website was fired earlier this week for refusing to manipulate data in the way the state officials need to reopen the economy, according to a local newspaper report.
Florida Today reported on Wednesday that Rebekah Jones, who was the chief architect of Florida’s COVID-19 data and surveillance dashboard intended to provide a real-time picture of the local coronavirus situation, was fired on Monday by the state’s Department of Health, reports Xinhua news agency.
The report quoted Jones as telling the CBS-12 news television station in West Palm Beach that Jones was fired because she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen” as ordered.
Jones didn’t give further details, the report said.
The newspaper, which first reported Jones’ removal from her position in charge of Florida COVID-19 data portal, said she confirmed her dismissal in an email, saying: “I worked on it alone, 16 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.”
The report said that in an email on May 15 to researchers and other data users, Jones warned that there could be changes concerning the accessibility and transparency of the Florida COVID-19 dashboard data.
Local and other media reports about Jones’ dismissal have raised concerns about the integrity of the COVID-19 data in Florida that were cited as the science base to support decisions on reopening the local economy.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said he based his decision to start reopening his state on science, and that the Florida data website had been praised by federal health experts.