In her first television interview after being ousted, the former manager of Florida’s coronavirus dashboard gave greater detail about her firing, alleging she tried to speak up after she was told by superiors to manipulate data so rural counties could reopen sooner.
Rebekah Jones, who helped create the Florida Department of Health data portal that represented the spread of the coronavirus in the state, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo she was fired May 5 after she gave her superiors results on data in Florida’s rural counties that “didn’t match the report for reopening that had already been written.”
The day before she was fired, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced the state would begin to reopen. DeSantis has said Jones was fired because she was insubordinate.
“What she was doing was, she was putting data on the portal, which the scientists didn’t believe was valid data,” DeSantis told reporters Wednesday. “So she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors — she had many people above her in the chain of command.”
“Asking me to delete data, and hide information, and make it publicly inaccessible was a bad decision.”
— Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) May 23, 2020
In the CNN interview Friday night, Jones disputed the governor’s characterization, saying she told her superiors they were making “the wrong call” by manipulating data.
“If refusing to mislead the public during a public health crisis is insubordination, then I will wear that badge with honor,” she told Cuomo.
DeSantis defended the state’s efforts, saying he was basing his reopening decisions on data and taking a more cautious approach than other governors in the region. After a sharp drop in April while stay-at-home orders were in effect, Florida’s daily confirmed cases have largely flatlined, even as the state has expanded its testing capacity.
Jones told Cuomo she initially believed the state was containing the outbreak. “But now it is impossible to know how reliable that data is,” she said, “because they changed the way that data is calculated, they changed the way they publish it, and data continues to go missing from the website when the dashboard now crashes all the time.”