TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) â Rebekah Jones, a former state employee who helped create the COVID-19 dashboard, relied upon by government leaders, business owners, journalists and residents to track the virus in the state, told news reporters with CBS12 in West Palm Beach that she was fired for refusing to censor some of the data in order to create support to reopen the state.
CBS4 News had a brief email exchange with Jones on Tuesday and requested an interview with her. However, she said that sheâs not doing interviews at this time.READ MORE: South Florida Businesses Relying On Tourism Hope To Recover From Pandemic Lows
According to Florida Today, in an email last week to people who signed up to receive data from the dashboard, Jones wrote that a new team had taken over work on the site. She cautioned that âI 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. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.â
But in an email the next day, Jones seemed to backtrack saying what she meant was that the new team is âbusy and canât answer every single email they get right away.â She continued, saying âIs this one of those stupid things that I shouldnât have said?â Finally, she concluded, âI really donât want this to be a story.â
State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami-Dade) admitted that there are very few details known about Jonesâ firing but he said the allegations demand an inquiry. He sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday calling for an immediate investigation by the Governorâs Chief Inspector General.
âWe need to get to the bottom of this,â Rodriguez told CBS4 News. âIf itâs not true, the public needs to be reassured that thatâs not the case and we can continue relying on the information. If these allegations are true, then we need to make immediate corrections to restore the publicâs faith in the public reporting of this information.â
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, DeSantis downplayed the allegations saying heâs never even heard of Jones.
âItâs a non-issue,â DeSantis said.READ MORE: Search Resumes For Missing 19-Year-Old Miya Marcano After Person Of Interest Found Dead
DeSantis said the dashboard shows the stateâs commitment to transparency.
âOur dashboard has been recognized nationally,â he said.
The governorâs office released a state late Tuesday afternoon seeking to add additional insight into Jonesâ firing.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, director of communications for the governorâs office, wrote, âRebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the Department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the Departmentâs 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.â
The statement went on to call Jonesâs behavior âdisruptive.â Jones was given until Thursday at 5 p.m. to resign or be fired.
Since March, the interactive map compiled by the Florida Department of Health has allowed people to see where the hot spots for the virus were in the state and to search their county and even specific zip codes for coronavirus case totals.
Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D-District 22) told CBS4 News that there have been other issues with transparency in DeSantis office related to the release of data regarding COVID-19. He said this issue brought up by Jones needs to be investigated.MORE NEWS: 'We Got Our Man': Patrick McDowell, Wanted For Killing Florida Deputy Captured
âWe use this data to make decisions about whether itâs safe to reopen and about how we fight the pandemic,â Deutch said. âIf weâre not getting fully accurate data than the concern is weâre making the decisions based on politics rather than based on science and thatâs not how we should be approaching this.â