NBC News by Corky Simaszko
May 19, 2020
The head of the Florida public information portal that lists the number of coronavirus casualties and cases claims she was ousted from the project for refusing to censor the dismal data.
Rebekah Jones said the responsibility for updating the COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard was taken from her office on May 5 and, in an email first obtained by the newspaper Florida Today, she questioned the state Department of Health’s pledge to maintain “accessibility and transparency.”
“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,” Jones wrote. “After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”
In an email to a Florida TV station, CBS12 News, Jones said her exit was “not voluntary” and that she was ousted after she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
Jones was referring to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan to gradually reopen the state, some sectors of which were locked down to prevent the spread of a virus that as of Tuesday had claimed more than 2,000 lives in Florida.
In particular, Jones reportedly balked at removing data that showed Florida residents reported coronavirus symptoms before cases were officially announced, according to internal emails obtained by The Tampa Bay Times.