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Coronavirus data chief who designed Florida’s interactive COVID-19 dashboard is fired

The coronavirus data chief who designed Florida’s comprehensive COVID-19 dashboard says she has been fired for refusing to ‘manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen’. 

Geospatial scientist Rebekah Jones revealed that for ‘reasons beyond my division’s control,’ she had been removed ‘not voluntarily’ as the manager of Florida’s interactive informational site on May 5, according to Florida Today. 

In an email to CBS 12 News, Jones, who led a team of Florida Department of Health scientists and public health officers, said that she was ordered to censor some data that wold support reopening the state and she refused, leading to her termination.  

Rebekah Jones led a team of Florida Department of Health scientists and public health officers to create and design a comprehensive COVID-19 dashboard

The dashboard (pictured) has been a useful tool for the public, media and researches to access information regarding COVID-19 cases, testing and data

The dashboard (pictured) has been a useful tool for the public, media and researches to access information regarding COVID-19 cases, testing and data

She said that her commitment to transparency and accessibility is 'largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it'. Florida has reopened beached in Delray

She said that her commitment to transparency and accessibility is ‘largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it’. Florida has reopened beached in Delray

The dashboard has been a useful tool for the public, media and researches to access information regarding COVID-19 cases, testing and data. The site was hailed as a great example by Dr. Deborah Birx last month. 

The site was hailed as a great example by Dr. Deborah Birx last month

The site was hailed as a great example by Dr. Deborah Birx last month

Jones announced her removal on May 5 in an email to colleagues, researchers and anyone who had signed up to receive updates on the data portal. 

She said her department would no longer be managing the dashboard, be responsible for updating the information on the site or fixing errors ‘in any shape or form.’

‘I understand, appreciate, and even share your concern about all the dramatic changes that have occurred and those that are yet to come,’ Jones wrote.

‘As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it,’ she added.  

Jones said that over the last few weeks, the site ‘crashed and went offline, data disappeared with no explanation and access to the underlying data sheets became difficult.’ 

She also said she wasn’t privy to the team’s objectives going forward and ‘what data they are now restricting.’

But Jones said in a May 5 email that she was fired for refusing to 'manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen'

But Jones said in a May 5 email that she was fired for refusing to ‘manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen’

Dave Aronberg, Florida's State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit called Jones' allegations, 'disturbing.'

Dave Aronberg, Florida’s State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit called Jones’ allegations, ‘disturbing.’

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried supported Jones, writing on Twitter: 'Thank you Rebekah Jones, for not being afraid to speak out.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried supported Jones, writing on Twitter: ‘Thank you Rebekah Jones, for not being afraid to speak out.

At the time of the sites’s launch, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said, ‘I am proud of the extraordinary hard work and dedication of the Florida Department of Health epidemiological team and GIS personnel. 

‘Providing access to real-time information is an integral part of Florida’s COVID-19 response,’ he added. 

The dashboard was recognized for its accessibility by Dr. Deborah Birx last month, who is leading the White House’s coronavirus task force.

‘That’s the kind of knowledge and power we need to put into the hands of American people so that they can see where the virus is, where the cases are, and make decisions,’ Birx told CBS’ Face the Nation. 

Dave Aronberg, Florida’s State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit called Jones’ allegations, ‘disturbing.’

‘Manipulating the data on Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard could cost lives,’  he said on  Twitter.  

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried supported Jones, writing on Twitter: ‘Thank you Rebekah Jones, for not being afraid to speak out. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk