Rebekah Jones Bio – Wiki
Rebekah Jones, a Florida data scientist, has said that she was fired for not changing COVID-19 stats so the data would look more favorable for reopening the state. In a separate message, however, she said that some of her comments were misinterpreted.
The Florida governor is disputing her claims, saying she was fired for insubordination and that she’s facing unrelated criminal charges. Jones, meanwhile, is raising money for her parents after their home was destroyed by a tornado in April. Here’s what you need to know about Jones and what is happening.
Jones was living in southern Mississippi when her town was hit by Hurricane Katrina when she was only 16, Syracuse University reported. Her home was flooded and some family members from New Orleans died.
Her age is unclear.
Rebekah Jones Fired for Not Changing COVID-19 Stats
Rebekah Jones was the manager of the Florida Department of Healths’ Geographic Information System team, NPR reported. As part of her job, she helped lead the team that created the dashboard of COVID-19 statistics for the state, called “Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.” You can see a screenshot of the dashboard above or see the live dashboard here.
Syracuse University reported that Jones built Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance dashboard. She told the university: “I started from scratch and decided what I thought was important. I really wanted people to be able to quickly, easily, and clearly understand what the numbers are in our state.”
On April 20, Dr. Deborah Birx praised the dashboard, saying: “This is how we have to inform the American public, and this is where the American public will develop confidence in each of their counties and local governments.”
But later in an email in May, Jones told a group of subscribers to the COVID-19 updates that she and her office would not be managing the dashboard any longer, as she had been removed from that position.
Jones told CBS 12 in an email that she was let go because she wouldn’t “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.” She said after she refused to censor data, she was removed. So far, CBS 12 appears to be the only publication that she made that specific comment to.
The Florida dashboard includes a count for total cases, Florida residents testing positive, hospitalizations, and deaths. The chart has a Florida map updated each day at 11 a.m. Eastern and charts showing recent data for Florida residents over the last 30 days. The charts include new cases of residents per day and resident deaths per day. The dashboard also has tabs for showing percent positive for laboratory testing, cases by county and ZIP code, and other health metrics.
Jones had objected to removing records that listed symptoms or positive test results before they were officially announced, Tampa Bay Times reported after reviewing internal emails. The day before she was removed, reporters had asked about an “EventDate” field on the dashboard that showed when people first had symptoms or positive test results. Some of those dates were as early as January 1, prior to the first confirmed cases in March. The column with the data was later removed on the afternoon of May 4 and didn’t reappear until the evening of May 5, the Tampa Bay Times shared.
Internal emails showed the IT Director asking Jones on the evening of May 4 to disable the ability to export data from dashboard files, Tampa Bay Times reported.
Then on April 12, her parents’ home was destroyed by a tornado in Mississippi, MSN reported. Her dad, a truck driver, was in Texas and her mother was in the state but wasn’t home when the storm hit.
She studied journalism to give a “voice to the voiceless,” and for a time was a features editor and writer for the university’s paper, The Daily Orange. Jones said that after she had her son and was a single mom, she wanted to be part of the solution and not just write about what was happening. She graduated cum Claude and was a geospatial specialist for the Lousiana Sea Grant for a time.
The Florida Governor Statement
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis disputed the allegations from Jones in a press conference.
DeSantis said: “She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication, and geography. Jones is not involved in collating any data, she does not have the expertise to do that, she is not an epidemiologist. Jones is not the chief architect of our web portal, that is another false statement… 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…and so she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different reasons…”
'She's not a data scientist. She's somebody that's got a degree in journalism, communication & geography.'
— WFLA NEWS (@WFLA) May 20, 2020
In a statement, the governor’s office said, in part:
Rebekah Jones’ duties were to display data obtained by the Department’s epidemiological staff. The team that created the graphics on the dashboard, which was made up by multiple people, received data that was provided by subject matter experts, including Senior Epidemiologists, Surveillance Epidemiologists, and a Senior Database Analyst.
Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors. The blatant disrespect for the professionals who were working around the clock to provide the important information for the COVID-19 website was harmful to the team.
Accuracy and transparency are always indispensable, especially during an unprecedented public health emergency such as COVID-19. Having someone disruptive cannot be tolerated during this public pandemic, which led the Department to determine that it was best to terminate her employment.
In a press conference, DeSantis said that Jones was under “active criminal charges” connected to cyberstalking.
He said: “Come to find out, she’s also under active criminal charges in the state of Florida. She’s being charged with cyberstalking and cyber sexual harassment. So I’ve asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continue on because this was many months ago. I have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. So her supervisor dismissed her because of a lot of those reasons and it was a totally valid way, but she should have been dismissed long before that.”