Media Touting Rebecka Jones, That Floridian Data ‘Whistleblower’, Just Got Some Bad News

Written by Wes Walker on May 27, 2020

She’s a whistleblower, they said. She’s a scientist, they said. There’s a cover-up they said. Now that it’s disproven, they quietly move on without retracting their former claims.

This is why we know that they aren’t ‘just the facts’ news types, but partisans pushing a narrative.

When there was an opportunity to use a story to discredit DeSantis, to attack Trump, and to undermine Red States daring to reopen their economies, it was the biggest story of the day.

Now that the smoke is cleared, and the picture is coming into focus, they’ve suddenly lost interest. Isn’t it interesting how it stops being a story once we’ve moved past the talking points, and actual facts have come out?

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What do we know? The story centers on one Rebekah Jones. While described as a ‘fired scientist’ by news reports, she was, in fact, responsible for designing and overseeing how information was presented and mapped on a ‘dashboard’ used by the State. Anyone suggesting or implying her role was even remotely similar to anything on the clinical research side was being deliberately misleading.

What she was doing was simply compiling and arranging available information so that it could be quickly and easily understood by the public. Information systems stuff. She was, officially, a ‘data manager’.

Like others in such a role of trust, her job was explicitly NOT to BECOME the story. She was to let the facts speak for themselves, without editorialization. But she inserted herself into the story anyway.

Jones was told to resign or be fired last Monday and her last work day was Thursday, after a pattern of overstepping her duties as data manager. The final straw came May 15, when she vented in emails to researchers and other data recipients that she’d been reassigned, suggesting they should now doubt the data’s integrity.

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 weeks 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.

The supervisor, Craig Curry, detailed each incident in an email to the department’s human resources office on May 6 and was told he could begin the process of firing her. But in that same email, Curry also praised Jones, saying she did “fantastic work.”

With an expertise in geography and tropical storms, Jones, 30, also has cited her dismay over Health Department officials taking down a category field in line data for individual COVID-19 cases — but says all data was restored later unaltered.

Deputy Secretary for Health Dr. Shamarial Roberson said that Jones’s pushback was over the “EventDate” category, which is when a patient reports first remembering having possible symptoms and is separate from when the illness is confirmed. —MiamiCBS

In an environment when so much is driven by emotional responses to data, it is important that the data presented be confirmed as accurate before it is made public. She was not hired to offer ‘political commentary’, nor was she authorized to speak on behalf of the government.

It appears she was exploiting her position of trust for public notoriety. Reassigning her to a role that offers her no such ‘inside information’ seemed a reasonable remedy.

She tried to generate a scandal over it. She’s gone now.

End of story.

As for the information that was supposedly ‘corrupted’ now that she is no longer the guardian of all that is right and good?

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 rosier picture and that she pushed back. In an interview late Friday on CNN she finally cited some detail, after several days of vague statements. —MiamiCBS

What was this REALLY about?

Ultimately, it looks like an unelected government employee objected to an elected official’s plan to enact a policy she disliked. In other words, an unelected, unaccountable ‘public servant’ tried to thwart the policy decisions of the duly elected government. This is precisely what we mean when we speak of the ‘deep state’.

More specifically?

Jones also said she opposed how health officials decided to exempt rural counties below 75,000 population from more stringent criteria for reopening — such as showing a downward trajectory of new cases or case positivity in the past 14 days. —MiamiCBS