After she refused to manipulate virus data, Rebekah Jones was fired – and subjected to vicious criticism from the governor. But, she says, she won’t be silenced.
Cases of Covid-19 in Florida were below 50,000 in May when Rebekah Jones, creator and manager of the state’s official coronavirus database, first claimed she was ordered to censor information to justify Governor Ron DeSantis’s ambitious reopening plans for the state.
The retribution was swift and brutal.
Jones was fired for insubordination, and subjected to a vitriolic public character assassination by DeSantis, a Republican who is a close ally of Donald Trump, in the presence of Vice-President Mike Pence. DeSantis questioned Jones’s qualifications and personality and aired demonstrably false statements about her private life.
To many observers, the governor’s strategy looked like a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence a troublesome data scientist obstructing the path to a speedy reopening. If so, it appears to have failed.
Not only was the reopening premature, with the pandemic still intensifying in Florida and this week surpassing half a million confirmed cases, but Jones continues to be a thorn in DeSantis’s side.
Since her dismissal, she has set up a rival coronavirus information portal featuring more detail than the state database; filed a whistleblower complaint alleging the Republican governor and Florida department of health habitually lied about the Covid-19 figures; and on Monday launched her latest venture, a state and national reporting database for teachers, parents and students worried about schools reopening safely.