A scientist who was fired from overseeing Florida’s Covid-19 database has created her own coronavirus dashboard – which she says proves Florida is not ready to reopen.
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Dr Rebekah Jones was fired by the Florida department of health in May. She said she was sidelined after she refused to manipulate data regarding the severity of Covid-19, which would have restricted the state’s plan to reopen its economy.
According to Jones’s own online database, Florida’s Community Coronavirus Dashboard, only one of 67 counties meets state criteria for easing social restrictions.
Jones’s dashboard also shows a higher number of coronavirus cases than the Florida DoH site, with 83,720 positive cases and 3,022 deaths compared with 75,568 cases and 2,931 deaths.
Jones said the difference was due to a difference in counting technique.
“DoH publishes total cases, not positive people,” her website says.
“Additionally, cases are not currently created for those who receive positive antibody test results, and so DoH excludes them from that total. We show the total number of people who have definitive lab results showing they have or have had Covid-19 regardless of the type of test.”
Florida recorded record levels of new coronavirus cases over the weekend, ABC News reported. On Sunday, the state health department reported a second consecutive day of more than 2,000 new cases.
According to data from the Washington Post, in June Florida experienced its highest seven-day average of coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
Jones’s database says Liberty county, in the north-west of the state, does meet criteria for reopening. Other counties do not.
She has said she was fired on 18 May for refusing to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen”.
“When I went to show them what the report card would say for each county, among other things, they asked me to delete the report card because it showed that no counties, pretty much, were ready for reopening,” Jones told NPR.
“And they didn’t want to draw attention to that.”
A spokesperson for Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, denied that Jones was fired for refusing to manipulate coronavirus data. The state health department said she had “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination”.
As of Monday morning researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland had recorded about 2.1m coronavirus cases in the US and 115,697 deaths. The actual death toll is believed to be far higher.
Cases are climbing in Florida and Arizona while in Texas hospitalizations from Covid-19 are up 42% since 25 May.
On Friday the federal government’s leading public health expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said the US might not see a “second wave” of Covid-19 “if you approach it in the proper way”.
Fauci said the correct approach involved people continuing to wear masks and maintaining social distancing.
Over the weekend, footage showed people in New York City, Washington and other places gathering without masks, and not practicing social distancing.