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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday. DeSantis defended Jones' ouster at the event. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A former employee at Florida's health department 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.

Driving the news: Rebekah Jones, who helped design Florida's coronavirus data tracker, was fired from her position this week after what she says was a dispute over how much information about infections and deaths should be made public, per the AP.

  • Emails obtained by the Times show the department's I.T. director instructed Jones to remove data on Floridians who tested positive for the virus on May 4. The order apparently came from the Division of Disease Control and Health Protection director.
  • Jones told the Times that she was reassigned on May 5, after objecting to the removal.

What they're saying: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended Jones' ouster at a Wednesday roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence, saying that it was a "nonissue," NPR reports.

The other side: “It is patently false to say that the Department of Health has manipulated any data,” Shamarial Roberson, the state's Deputy Secretary for Health, told the Times in a statement.

  • A spokeswoman for DeSantis told the Miami Herald that Jones was removed from her position for “a repeated course of insubordination," which included modifying the department's COVID-19 dashboard.
  • Jones did not specify to the Times what data had been manipulated or how she was asked to change it. She told the Times that she did not know the identity of the outside vendor that supplied the data.

Where it stands: Florida is reporting just over 50,000 COVID-19 cases, per Johns Hopkins data. Over 2,200 people have died from the virus, per the state health department.

  • The state began its first phase of reopening the first week of May — while Jones was reportedly instructed to remove coronavirus data.
  • Restaurants in Florida began allowing indoor seating with no more than 50% capacity earlier this week, along with stores, gyms and museums.

Go deeper: Florida's slow response may have made its coronavirus outbreak worse

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Aug 31, 2020 - Health

CDC report on COVID deaths underlines virus' danger

Continental Funeral Home in Los Angeles has been struggling to keep up with the demands of rising death rates during the pandemic. Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A new Centers for Disease Control report shows 94% of people who died from COVID-19 in the U.S. had contributing health conditions.

Yes, but: Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz noted in a blog post on Monday that the CDC finds COVID-19 was the underlying cause of 95% of all deaths related to the virus. Only in 5% of deaths has it been listed as a contributing cause.