SCDHEC has reported that South Carolina has exceeded 9,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with, at least, 400 deaths. Everyone recognizes that these numbers reflect the minimum number since deaths have been undercounted. In fact, I saw an article about Rebekah Jones, a scientist who created a dashboard for monitoring Florida’s rising number of COVID-19 cases. She was fired for refusing to manipulate the data.
Jones was the manager of the Geographic Information System team at Florida’s Department of Health. She helped create a data portal that for months has provided easily accessible and detailed information on COVID-19 cases broken down by ZIP code. The Florida COVID-19 dashboard has been praised by researchers in the state and by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator.
Last week, Jones was abruptly removed from the project. “As a word of caution,” she wrote, “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. After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it.”
Jones was fired from the state Department of Health. Her dismissal came after she refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.” Jones’ removal from the project and her subsequent dismissal have raised questions about the impartiality and transparency of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard.