Fired data scientist’s claims of Covid-19 data manipulation ‘unsubstantiated’
Allegations the florida branch of fitness fired an employee because she objected to manipulating coronavirus facts had been “unsubstantiated,” according to a state inspector wellknown document. The former kingdom facts scientist, rebekah jones, claimed she changed into pressured by using fitness branch officials to falsify covid-19 records to cover the extent of florida’s outbreak inside the early months of the pandemic. In a file finalized in march, the kingdom inspector preferred’s workplace stated there has been insufficient proof to show her claims and exonerated the personnel accused of orchestrating a coverup.
In a grievance filed in july 2020, jones, who became tasked with managing florida’s covid-19 facts dashboard, alleged she changed into fired after she refused to observe orders to control information on the dashboard to guide lifting coronavirus regulations to reopen the kingdom while it turned into honestly hazardous to do so. Investigators determined the kingdom’s covid-19 statistics changed into not falsified, pronouncing in the record that the manipulation jones alleged “did no longer arise.” witnesses within the department instructed investigators they were “skeptical” of jones’ initial claims of being requested to govern data due to the fact she changed into now not an epidemiologist and did now not have get admission to to the dashboard’s underlying covid-19 records repositories.
The report said jones only had access to a public-dealing with dashboard that visualized the statistics, and that information matched the data the department shared in a each day file to the general public. “if the complainant or other doh staff have been to have falsified covid-19 facts on the dashboard, the dashboard might then no longer have matched the statistics in the corresponding final daily report,” the record stated, noting “one of these discrepancy” might were detected with the aid of personnel within the kingdom bureau of epidemiology and by different organizations consisting of neighborhood governments and the media.
Numerous cutting-edge and former branch of fitness personnel interviewed by using investigators “denied ever being requested by using anybody to falsify or in any other case alter covid-19 statistics or witnessing a person else being directed to falsify or in any other case alter covid-19 statistics,” consistent with the record. Jones in her complaint also alleged fitness branch officers directed her to put off a “facts hub” containing underlying surveillance information from the dashboard earlier than telling her to reactivate it inside 24 hours, the file said.
The file located jones’ allegation become correct, bringing up interviews with the officials who said the data turned into briefly removed for overview over worries it can have contained sufferers’ publicly reachable private information linked to reported covid-19 instances. But, the report concluded the officers’ moves did not violate any coverage for the reason that “records hub” changed into no longer required to be made to be had to the public.
The 27-web page record was first reported thursday by means of nbc information. In response, jones defined the record’s conclusion that she had been requested to take away a few statistics as a “vindication.” “i am relieved to be vindicated,” she stated, in part, in a announcement. “it feels like a big weight taken off me to be vindicated subsequently, in any case this time, all the efforts by the nation to defame and smear me, and the failed tries to discredit me with baseless claims which have in the end been verified false.”gov.
Ron desantis’ office did no longer straight away reply friday to cnn’s request for comment approximately the inspector trendy file and jones’ reaction. Jones publicly shared the tale of her dismissal before leaving the branch in may also 2020 and have become a distinguished critic of desantis, accusing the republican of minimizing the extent of florida’s outbreak in the course of the pandemic. Whilst she become fired, the fitness department said jones became removed because she had “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination,” making “unilateral selections to alter the branch’s covid-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological crew or her supervisors.” in december 2020, police performed a seek warrant at jones’ tallahassee home amid a nation research into whether she accessed a kingdom messaging machine with out authorization to implore personnel to speak out approximately the country’s covid-19 deaths.
In can also 2021, she turned into granted whistleblower repute by using the inspector widespread, even though the very last document stated that selection became “based totally totally on the character of the complainant’s allegations as provided” in her preliminary complaint. Jones grew to become herself into jail in january 2021 after a warrant was issued for her arrest. She posted bail and left prison after telling reporters she examined had effective for covid-19. She became charged with one count of offenses towards users of computers, laptop systems, pc networks and digital devices, the florida department of law enforcement stated. She pleaded now not guilty, in keeping with courtroom records, and the case continues to be pending. Jones has turn out to be politically lively seeing that her go out from the health branch and is now running in a democratic primary to task us rep. Matt gaetz for his panhandle district.