Story at a glance
- Rebekah Jones, a former employee of the Florida Department of Health, said Tuesday multiple sources at the department told her they were instructed to slowly delete deaths and cases.
- Her claims have not been independently verified.
- Jones, who was fired from her role at DOH in May, claims she was ousted for refusing to manipulate data, while the state says she was let go for insubordination.
As Florida continues to deal with skyrocketing coronavirus cases, the state is facing renewed criticism from the woman who designed Florida’s official COVID-19 database.
Rebekah Jones, a former employee of the Florida Department of Health (DOH), said in May she was ousted from her role as manager of the COVID-19 dashboard for refusing to manually change data in a way to support the state’s plan to reopen. The state claims Jones was fired for insubordination.
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In response, Jones designed her own dashboard, one that uses state data but offers several other metrics, including hospital bed availability by facility. Jones’s platform, unlike Florida’s, includes figures of out-of-state residents who die of COVID-19 in the state.
On Tuesday, Jones took to Twitter to make several accusations against the state’s handling of coronavirus data.
“Florida announced yesterday they’re not counting the icu bed availability anymore, a key element in keeping things open, so the state can proceed to the next phase by July 4,” Jones tweeted. “I have multiple sources at DOH who have just told me they have been instructed this week to change the numbers and begin slowly deleting deaths and cases so it looks like Florida is improving next week in the leadup to July 4, like they’ve ‘made it over the hump.’”
“I’ve independently verified they’ve deleted at least 1200 cases in the last week. They’re only reporting all these cases now so they can restrict reporting next week to make everyone think it’s over. I’ve had two DOH employees in different offices confirm.”
Jones’s claim that 1,200 cases had been deleted by DOH in the last week has not been independently verified and the department has not addressed the accusations, The Miami Herald reports.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), however, was asked about Jones’s claims Wednesday by a reporter from The Miami Herald during a news conference and dismissed the claim.
“You’re embarrassing yourself,” DeSantis told the reporter. “You guys have been on the conspiracy bandwagon for months.”
“You need to move on," DeSantis said.
Florida health officials on Friday reported nearly 9,000 new infections, surpassing the previous single-day record of more than 5,500 cases set just two days ago. Hospital systems around Florida are also reporting steep drops in the availability in intensive care and other beds, according to The Guardian. The state, however, announced Tuesday it won’t be tracking the number of coronavirus patients in ICU beds.