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florida fires state employee for refusing to cook the books on covid

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yahoo.com
 

Yahoo

Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon, Florida Today

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The scientist who created Florida's COVID-19 data portal wasn't just removed from her position on May 5, she was fired on Monday by the Department of Health, she said, for refusing to manipulate data.

Rebekah Jones said in an email to the USA TODAY Network that she single-handedly created two applications in two languages, four dashboards, six unique maps with layers of data functionality for 32 variables covering a half a million lines of data. Her objective was to create a way for Floridians and researchers to see what the COVID-19 situation was in real time.

Then, she was dismissed. 

"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," she wrote in an email, confirming that she had not just been reassigned on May 5, but fired from her job as Geographic Information Systems manager for the Florida Department of Health.  

After USA TODAY Network first reported Jones' removal from her position in charge of the Florida COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard she created, she confirmed, as reported by CBS-12 in West Palm Beach that she was fired because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."

She provided no further details. 

In an email last Friday to researchers and other data users, Jones warned that with her removal changes were likely coming to the accessibility and transparency of the dashboard data. 

"They are making a lot of changes. I would advise being diligent in your respective uses of this data," she wrote. 

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Well, well, well, it looks like Yahoo is as bad as Salon.  The Governor’s response:

Jones did not respond to emailed requests to comment.

But DeSantis said Tuesday that Jones sent an email to her supervisor saying the comments were being misinterpreted.

"I don't know who she is but they gave me an email that she sent to her supervisor, said that, 'Uh-oh, I may have said something that was misrepresented,'" DeSantis said, adding Jones went on to write that: "I said they've got a team working on it now and what I meant when I said don't expect the same level of accessibility is that they are busy and can't answer every single email they get right away and that it was ridiculous that I managed to do it in the first place and that I was tired and needed a break from working two months straight."

DeSantis added that the state's COVID-19 dashboard is "a heck of tool" and said "I'm proud of the folks who work on it."

Jones told FLORIDA TODAY that she was fired on Monday. And she said in an email to the CBS12 television station in West Palm Beach that she faced blowback because she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."

The governor's office released a statement Tuesday saying Jones was terminated after a "repeated course of insubordination... including her unilateral decisions to modify the Department's COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors."

https://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2020/05/19/Florida-coronavirus-COVID-19-data-scientist-fired-refusing-manipulate-DeSantis/stories/202005190176

I wonder if Yahoo even asked the Governor before they released the story?  Or USA Today or any other news source?  It sounds like she had too much pride of ownership for her dashboard.

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Quote

Rebekah Jones’ firing is the COVID clickbait the media dreams of – but it’s all fake

By  on 116 Comments

By Brian Burgess, The Capitolist

 

Dozens of media outlets, both in Florida and nationally, published the sensational story of Dr. Rebekah Jones, a state Department of Health employee who was fired by the administration of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, after – she says – she refused to manipulate data to support the governor’s plan to reopen the state.

But a deeper look at the underlying facts expose a less sensational, yet all-too-common narrative: a media feeding frenzy caused by a deep-seated desire to report on scandal and cover-ups, which Rebekah Jones’ claims delivered – if only they were true.

They are not.

Let’s pick through the individual pieces of wreckage from this crashed-and-burned narrative one by one:

Claim #1: Rebekah Jones was the “architect” of the Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The truth: Jones was more like the drywall hanger of the dashboard rather than the “architect.” The dashboard was built on the same visual mapping tool that Johns Hopkins University made famous at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. In fact, Florida’s tool looks extremely similar. That’s because Johns Hopkins University is not the “architect” of the dashboard, either. The tool is actually built not on any of Florida’s many data servers, but using ready-made modules from a subscription service calledArcGIS. Jones’ job was to load data into those modules and decide how it appeared to visitors.

Claim #2: Rebekah Jones was a coronavirus “scientist” 

The truth: Jones has a doctorate degree in geography. Her skill set, as applicable to COVID-19, was in mapping data, as we explained above. That’s it. No special skills in epidemiology, biology, or even public health. Depending on the narrative a media outlet wants to convey, using the term “scientist” in headlines about coronavirus carries with it a very specific connotation, leading readers to believe Jones was involved in the front lines of coronavirus research. If media outlets insist on describing her as a “scientist,” they owe their readers a fuller explanation of her role, and should, at most, describe her as a “data scientist,” though even that could be misleading and would still be misconstrued for political gain.

Claim #3: Rebekah Jones was asked to manipulate data to support the governor’s plan to reopen Florida

The truth: Jones was asked to temporarily disable the ability to export data from the dashboard so that it could be verified that the data matched other sources.

We previously gave credit to the Tampa Bay Times for accurately describing Jones’ role in managing the COVID-19 dashboard. They also accurately describe events leading to Jones termination. Don’t misunderstand – the Times is still guilty of trying to make Jones a martyr. Take a look at how they describe what happened:

[On May 4th] the [EventDate] column vanished from the “Person Cases” data, which lists anonymized records for every confirmed case in Florida. The Palm Beach Post reported the disappearance the next day, May 5.

The Tampa Bay Times automatically checks for changes in the data and archives new updates. Shortly before 10:12 a.m on May 4., data still included the EventDate field, showing records with listed dates that people reported symptoms as early as January 1. By 3:02 p.m., the column was gone.

For much of the next day, May 5, the column was either missing or empty, with every row listing “None.” Finally, it returned shortly before 8:02 p.m.

If you’re struggling to see what all the fuss is about, you’re not alone. By the Times own account, a single column of data became temporarily unavailable for a day and a half. The only other item worthy of note in the Times’ story is that the state’s official epidemiologist (i.e. an actual medical scientist, not a data mapper, like Jones) asked to have the ability to export data from the dashboard temporarily disabled while health officials verify that the dates match other official sources.

This is critical. The Tampa Bay Times had the full explanation for why the data was temporarily unavailable, but they and other media outlets decided to run with “coronavirus conspiracy” instead. In fact, the Times headline claims Jones was asked to “delete” data. No where in the story itself does the word “delete” appear. It’s another clickbait headline.

Claim #4: Rebekah Jones was fired because she refused to comply with orders to hide the truth about COVID-19

The truth: The idea that Jones is somehow a martyr for truth about coronavirus and a victim of a DeSantis administration cover up is a narrative too many media outlets were willing to jump on.

She was fired for insubordination, according to the DeSantis Administration:

“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,” DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferresaid in a statement. “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.”

Jones is no stranger to insubordination. In 2016, she was arrested on the campus of her employer, Louisiana State University, forrefusing to obey the orders of a police officer:

On June 13, 26-year-old University staff member Rebekah Jones was booked on one count of battery on a police officer, one count of remaining after forbidden and two counts of resisting arrest, Scott said. Scott said officers arrived at the Sea Grant building when Jones refused to leave at the request of LSU Human Resources. Scott said Jones initiated physical contact against two LSUPD officers while resisting arrest and officers were forced to subdue her.

It’s not clear why LSU’s Human Resources department asked one of their own staff members to leave the area.

Jones also has an extensive criminal history in Leon County, where she’s been arrested and charged with three felonies, including one for robbery, and a handful of misdemeanor cases including “sexual cyberstalking,” a case where she created a website and used it to sexually harass her ex-boyfriend. The website has been taken down, but images from the case exist in Leon County court records.

Most of the charges filed against her came after she was hired by the Department of Health, so they would not have turned up in any background check.

The bottom line: Rebekah Jones was fired for performance issues, not for “refusing to manipulate data.” And her extensive criminal history, which predates her employment in Florida, lends credence to the DeSantis administration that she was just a troublesome employee who is now disgruntled and trying to get media attention about her firing. The easiest way to get media attention right now is to claim a Republican elected official is involved in a conspiracy to cover up COVID-19 data detrimental to reopening the state economy.

The media outlets listed above will not issue retractions. They will double down on the idea that DeSantis’s administration is withholding / manipulating / deleting / altering data. That, too is totally false. But mark these words, the embarrassment of touting Rebekah Jones as their coronavirus martyr will quickly fade into the mainstream media memory hole.

https://tallahasseereports.com/2020/05/20/rebekah-jones-firing-is-the-covid-clickbait-the-media-dreams-of-but-its-all-fake/

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