Jun 13, 2020 - Health

Ousted Florida health dept. data scientist creates coronavirus tracker

People sit on the beach

Beachgoers in Miami on June 10. Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

A former data scientist at Florida's Department of Health who helped design the state's coronavirus tracker has created a virus dashboard after being fired from her position in May, the Washington Post reports.

Where it stands: Rebekah Jones' tracker counts over 7,500 more coronavirus cases in Florida than the state health department's official dashboard, which matches data from Johns Hopkins. Axios uses data from Johns Hopkins and the COVID Tracking Project as its standard for tracking the virus.

Catch up quick: Jones says that a top official told her to "manipulate" data to encourage public support for the state's reopening plan in rural counties, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

  • Jones told the Times that she was reassigned on May 5, after objecting to the removal of data on Floridians who tested positive for the virus. The order came from the Division of Disease Control and Health Protection director, per the Times.
  • Jones claims that she was asked specifically to delete data that showed some residents had tested positive for the virus as early as January, the Post reports.

What they're saying: “I wanted to build an application that delivered data and helped people get tested and helped them get resources that they need from their community,” Jones told the Post. “And that’s what I ended up building with this new dashboard.”

  • The Florida Health Ddeepartment has called Jones' initial allegations of data manipulation "patently false." A department spokesman said that the January dates Jones referenced "could also represent the first day someone came into contact with an infected person or went to a place where she may have contracted the virus," in a statement to the Post.
  • A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the Miami Herald in May that Jones was removed from her position for “a repeated course of insubordination," which included modifying the department's COVID-19 dashboard.

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