U.S. scientist fired for refusing to manipulate Florida's COVID-19 data: media report
Published: May 21, 2020 01:30 PM

File Photo: Xinhua

A U.S. scientist who created Florida's COVID-19 data website was fired earlier this week for refusing to manipulate data in the way the state officials need for reopening economy, according to a local newspaper report.

Florida Today reported Wednesday that Rebekah Jones, who was the chief architect of Florida's COVID-19 data and surveillance dashboard intended to provide a real-time picture of the local coronavirus situation, was fired on Monday by the state Department of Health after she was removed from her position as its Geographic Information Systems manager on May 5.

The report quoted Jones as telling the CBS-12 news television station in West Palm Beach that she was fired because she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen" as ordered.

Jones didn't give further details, the report said.

The newspaper, which first reported Jones' removal from her position in charge of Florida COVID-19 data portal, said Jones confirmed her dismissal in an email, writing, "I worked on it alone, sixteen hours a day for two months, most of which I was never paid for, and now that this has happened I'll probably never get paid for."

The report said that in an email Friday to researchers and other data users, Jones warned that there could be changes concerning the accessibility and transparency of the Florida COVID-19 dashboard data.

Local and other media reports about Jones' dismissal has raised concern about the integrity of the COVID-19 data in Florida and beyond that are cited as the science base to support decisions on reopening local economy.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has said he based his decision to start reopening his state on science, and that the Florida data website had been praised by federal health experts.