Rebekah Jones, fired coronavirus data scientist, files whistleblower complaint

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Mario Ariza, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·2 min read
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Rebekah Jones, the Florida coronavirus data scientist who was fired in early May for alleged insubordination, has filed a whistleblower complaint against the Florida Department of Health.

The complaint comes during a moment of heightened scrutiny of Florida’s public coronavirus statistics and the explosion in virus infections that has some calling the state — and South Florida specifically — the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Rick Johnson, the Tallahassee Lawyer representing the ousted data scientist, called it a straightforward complaint. “They told her to fudge the numbers and she said ‘no,' so they fired her and fudged the numbers without her,” he says.

The complaint, filed with the Florida Commission on Human Relations on Thursday, is not available to the public.

The Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

During a May 20 news conference that represents the most substantive statements to date by state officials on the matter, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed Jones’ role in operating the state’s online COVID-19 platform and aired her messy legal fight with a former boyfriend.

“Our data is available, our data is transparent,‘' a bristling DeSantis responded to media during the May 20 conference. “So any insinuation otherwise is just typical partisan narrative trying to be spun.

A series of emails between Jones and top Florida Department of Health Officials obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel in early May show that Jones was ordered to sever public access to raw data on the dashboard.

Since being fired from her position, Jones has published her own coronavirus data dashboard with competing interpretations of the state’s numbers.

Jones has also continued to call into question the veracity of Florida’s coronavirus statistics.

When asked why he took Jones’ case, Johnson said the current magnitude of the virus outbreak in Florida and the rush to reopen compelled him to represent her.

“We opened before the data told us that it was safe to open, because that’s just the DeSantis-Trump ideology,” says Johnson.

Florida’s coronavirus outbreak dashboard garnered national acclaim, at one point drawing the praise of coronavirus task force member Dr. Deborah Birx.

Since Jones’ firing on May 6, the dashboard has broken down multiple times.

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