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Public remarks prompted Florida virus data curator’s firing

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Public remarks prompted Florida virus data curator’s firing

Banyan Medical Systems health workers wait to test citizens at the coronavirus antibody test drive through site in Bal Harbour Shops as the Novel coronavirus pandemic continues on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 in Bal Harbour.(David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP) By Brendan Farrington and Bobby Caina Calvan | Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The woman who raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator had been reprimanded several times and ultimately fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information, state records show.

Rebekah Jones’ comments over the past week and a half in emails to researchers, interviews with a handful of media outlets and blog posts have sought to sow doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role.

State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy as Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to make a data-driven case for a step-by-step reopening of the state’s battered economy following safer-at-home orders. The Republican governor lashed out at a news conference earlier this week saying Jones had a pattern of “insubordination” and should have been fired months ago.

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Jones has not alleged any tampering with data on deaths, hospital symptom surveillance, hospitalizations for COVID-19, numbers of new confirmed cases, or overall testing rates — core elements of any assessment of the outbreak and of federal criteria for reopening. And Jones acknowledges Florida has been relatively transparent — for which she herself claims some credit — and relatively successful in controlling the pandemic.

She has, however, suggested Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a […]

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