The Weird Saga of the Woman Who Supposedly Refused to Alter Florida's Covid-19 Data

Illustration for article titled The Weird Saga of the Woman Who Supposedly Refused to Alter Florida's Covid-19 Data
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters Wednesday that the woman who designed Florida’s acclaimed covid-19 dashboard and was later fired was removed from her post, not for whistleblowing on alleged attempts to skew the state’s covid data, but rather insubordination—and, to make matters more complicated, is separately under “active criminal charges” for sexual cyber harassment. It’s unclear what story is accurate, but it’s certainly a clusterfuck.


On Tuesday, Florida Today reported that Rebekah Jones, the architect behind the dashboard—a publicly accessible database tracking the covid-19's spread, casualties, and testing—was removed from her post at the Florida Department of Health. Jones told CBS12 in West Palm Beach, Florida that her termination was due to her refusal to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

Jones claimed that, in recent weeks, the database experienced a number of crashes and that data would go missing. In a cryptic email to colleagues and database subscribers, Jones warned, “I 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.”

The implication was that the new team would be less forthcoming about data, which worried researchers. But according to DeSantis, Jones said she was misinterpreted. DeSantis’s office released an email from Jones dated May 16 with the subject title “uhm... uh oh?” In it, Jones writes, “...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.” Later, she added, “Is this one of those stupid things I shouldn’t have said?”

The email does not negate Jones’ claim to CBS12 that she was pushed out for refusing to tweak data. But DeSantis seems determined to make Jones a non-issue, starting with her credentials, and ending with her criminal record.

“She’s not a data scientist,” DeSantis told reporters in Orlando while Vice President Mike Pence awkwardly stood at his side. “She’s somebody that’s got a degree in journalism, communication, and geography.”


He continued: “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, she had many people above her in the chain of command, so she was dismissed because of that and because of a bunch of different reasons.”

DeSantis then brought up the sexual harassment allegation against Jones.

“She’s being charged with cyberstalking and cyber sexual harassment,” DeSantis said. “So I’ve asked the Department of Health to explain to me how someone would be allowed to be charged with that and continued on, cause this was many months ago. I have a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment.”



A police report from Tallahassee Police shows a man claimed to be a victim of revenge porn by Jones in June of 2019. The man told police he had an injunction against Jones for a year until it recently expired. He said Jones posted a website which included naked pictures of him, and shared it with his place of employment and family members.

At the time of her arrest, she listed her place of employment as the Florida Department of Health.


An increasingly irate DeSantis characterized the insinuation that Florida’s covid-19 data has been compromised as partisan. Pence stood and watched like a man who doesn’t know what to do with his body.

Illustration for article titled The Weird Saga of the Woman Who Supposedly Refused to Alter Florida's Covid-19 Data
Screenshot: Twitter/WFLA

This initially appeared to be a clear cut case of Florida mishandling data to prompt the reopening of the state. Now, everyone looks fishy.

Hey, remember that wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that President Trump is so obsessed with? Well, a construction firm landed a $1.3 billion contract to build the accursed thing. The Washington Post reports that North Dakota construction firm Fisher Sand and Gravel hopes to build 42 miles of “black-painted fencing through the rugged mountains of southern Arizona.”


Fisher Sand and Gravel were initially passed over for the contract until its CEO started kissing ass:

...the company and its CEO, Tommy Fisher, cut a direct path to the president by praising him on cable news, donating to his Republican allies and cultivating ties to former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, GOP Senate candidate Kris Kobach and other conservative figures in Trump’s orbit.


But everything stinks in Trump world, and Fisher Sand and Gravel are no exception:

Fisher’s first and only other major border contract, for $400 million, is under review by the Department of Defense Inspector General, after Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about improper White House influence on the procurement process. The IG’s office confirmed Tuesday that the audit is ongoing.


Great. Just... great.

  • President Trump remembered Tiffany:
  • Many Americans, especially in rural areas, still do not have access to covid-19 tests. [Axios]
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was having a bunch of fancy dinner parties using taxpayer money. [NBC News]
  • And Pompeo has been busy! You know, ousting State Department inspector general Steve Linick and all. [Politico]
  • Which Pompeo still can’t give a good explanation for:
  • A Senate panel approved a subpoena into the Hunter Biden Ukraine clusterfuck probe. [AP]
  • Texans can vote by mail now. [CNN]
  • Ivanka Trump loves a honkin’ big Dell laptop:
  • Oregon Republicans are propping up a Q-Anon truther for U.S. Senate. [RightWingWatch]
  • Anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise. What could possibly go wrong? [Politico]
  • McDonald’s workers are striking, baby:

Staff writer, mint chocolate hater.



That sounds like the perfect qualifications for a data scientist and especially somebody making/managing dashboards.