Another week, another Trumpist assault on the truth and accuracy of COVID-19 data. Palmer Report told you about Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s graph that ordered infection dates and county names in a way that appeared to falsely imply a downward trend. The madness has now crossed the border into Florida, where an ousted researcher is now sounding the alarm over her state’s efforts to block trustworthy data from reaching its citizens.
According to reporting this week by Florida Today, Rebekah Jones, who created and managed Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, was dismissed from her job “for reasons beyond my division’s control,” as she explained in an email to colleagues and followers. Jones also revealed to CBS12 News that she was removed after refusing to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
In addition to firing Jones, the Florida Department of Health also ordered Jones’ division to stop working on the dashboard and start ignoring questions from concerned Floridians “in any shape or form,” according to the email. Without having been given any explanation for these disturbing changes, Jones concluded that her commitment to accessibility and transparency “is largely (arguably entirely) the reason” she was let go, following weeks of mysterious site outages and missing data.
Governor Ron DeSantis’ office has responded to the coverage with a statement that only makes things worse. Jones claims to have single-handedly coded the dashboard, and she has received wide praise for her work, including a shout out from Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force. Nevertheless, DeSantis dismissed Jones’ contribution while still failing to offer a reason for her departure. A spokesperson told the Miami Herald: “The Florida COVID-19 Dashboard was created by the Geographic Information System (GIS) team… Although Rebekah Jones is no longer involved, the GIS team continues to manage and update the Dashboard providing accurate and important information that is publicly accessible.”
Just as the hydroxychloroquine-popping Donald Trump is the last person you would want to lead this country through a deadly pandemic, Kemp and DeSantis are proving they cannot be trusted to keep the citizens of their states safe as they prioritize their own political agenda and loyalty to Trump. As President Barack Obama once said in a weekly address, “The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”