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Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Report: Florida Health Department Repeatedly Warned Data Manager Before Ouster

A former Florida Department of Health employee was fired after repeatedly ignoring warnings and openly discussing the state’s coronavirus data tracking without authorization.
Rebekah Jones was fired from her position managing coronavirus data for the Florida government after receiving two warnings about publicly discussing her work without authorization, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.
The AP described the documents in a Sunday report:
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show a supervisor warned Jones on April 9 after she posted a message on a newspaper Facebook page about the dashboard. She was told she needs approval before publicly discussing the work. Less than two week later, she was warned again when a mapping company’s online magazine published an extensive interview with Jones. Her supervisor later found a public blog in which Jones discussed the dashboard, released unauthorized charts and added “political commentary” in posts that appear to have been taken down.
Jones was reassigned from her post managing the data hub on May 5, and on May 15, in her last email to subscribers of a weekly coronavirus report, she seeded doubt that the state’s tracking hub would be less reliable without her oversight moving forward.
“As a word of caution, 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,” she said in the email according to the Tampa Bay Times. “They are making a lot of changes. I would advise being diligent in your respective uses of this data.”
After Jones’ then-supervisor, Craig Curry, outlined the instances of insubordination in an email, he was instructed to fire her. Jones’ last day working for the state health department was on Thursday after being fired on May 18.
In the aftermath of Jones’ ouster, a number of Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation into Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration and his handling of coronavirus data tracking. Media outlets reported news of Jones’ firing, pushing an unsubstantiated claim that she was dismissed over a refusal to manipulate data at health officials’ request.
DeSantis spokeswoman Helen Ferre hit back at that allegation in a statement on May 19, saying the data manager was fired for “insubordination.”
“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,” Ferre told The Capitolist. “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.”

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