By Kathryn Watson, CBC News–
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday criticized an ousted Florida official who questioned the state’s coronavirus data. Rebekah Jones, who helped manage Florida’s COVID-19 data center for the Florida Department of Health, claimed she was fired for refusing to manually alter data to create support for the Sunshine State’s reopening plan. But the governor’s office has denied that, maintaining Jones was fired for insubordination and disruptive behavior.
Standing next to Vice President Mike Pence, who was in Florida to highlight the state’s reopening, DeSantis criticized Jones in front of reporters.
“One, she’s not a data scientist. She is somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication and geography,” DeSantis said in Orlando. “She is not involved in collating any data, she does not have the expertise to do that. She is not an epidemiologist. She is not the chief architect of our web portal, that is another false statement. And what she was doing was she was putting data on the portal which the scientists didn’t believe was valid data. So she didn’t listen to the people who were her superiors, she had many people above her in the chain of command. So she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different reasons about how she did.”
Emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show that one day before she lost her position keeping up coronavirus data, Jones objected to a removal of records showing people had positive tests or symptoms before cases were announced.
Jones told CBS12 News that her departure was “not voluntary,” and said she was removed because she was made to censor some data, but refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
On Wednesday, DeSantis said the state’s data is “transparent,” and pointed to praise of his state’s data from Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx.
“Our data is available, our data is transparent, in fact Dr. Birx has talked multiple times about how Florida has the absolute best data,” the governor said.