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A top Florida coronavirus researcher said she was fired as the state reopened because she refused to 'manually change data'

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 19/05/2020 Haven Orecchio-Egresitz
a group of people posing for a photo: Medical workers watch a formation of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Mount Sinai Medical Centre as a collaborative salute to first responders and other essential personnel during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Miami, Florida, U.S., May 8, 2020. Medical workers watch a formation of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Mount Sinai Medical Centre as a collaborative salute to first responders and other essential personnel during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Miami, Florida, U.S., May 8, 2020.
  • A top Florida data researcher, who developed the state's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired on May 5.
  • Rebekah Jones told CBS 12, and other media, that she was ordered to censor data "to drum up support for the plan to reopen."
  • Jones' dashboard had been praised by White House officials for its accessibility, Florida Today reported.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rebekah Jones, a top data researcher in Florida who developed the state's coronavirus dashboard, says she was fired because she refused to meddle with data related to COVID-19 cases in the state,

Jones, who was fired on May 5 from the state's health department, said in an email to CBS12 that her removal was "not voluntary" and happened because she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."

In early May, Florida counties began reopening from the state's monthlong lockdown. On Monday, the whole state entered its first phase of reopening. During this phase, gyms, retail stores, grooming services, and restaurants are allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

Jones' dashboard has received praise from White House officials for its accessibility, according to Florida Today. The site, which included current COVID-19 cases, has also been used by researchers and the media.

a close up of a map: Rebekah Jones, who headed the team that created Florida's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired earlier this month. Rebekah Jones, who headed the team that created Florida's COVID-19 dashboard, was fired earlier this month.

For the last few weeks, though, the site has "crashes" and gone offline, some data has cone missing, and access to underlying data has become a challenge, according to local Florida Today.

In an email to other researchers announcing her departure, Jones said that her office is no longer involved in the publication of the data, fixing errors or answering questions, according to the Florida daily.

"As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months," she wrote in the email. "After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it."

The Florida Department of Health didn't immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

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