ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida state officials say the former manager of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard was fired because she was insubordinate, even as health leaders cry foul over her removal.
Earlier on Tuesday, Florida Today reported Rebekah Jones, the head of a team of Florida Department of Health data scientists and public health officers, was removed from her position.
She was the architect and manager of the state’s coronavirus dashboard, which shows the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Florida. The data is broken down by county and even by zip code.
Florida Today reports Jones emailed her former coworkers letting them know she was removed from her position on May 5.
Jones said she appreciates all the concerns from her coworkers during the changes that have happened, according to Florida Today.
“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,” Florida Today shared in their initial report.
Communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis Helen Aguirre Ferre sent a statement to News 6 explaining why Jones was fired.
“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. 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,” Ferre said.
Ferre added accuracy is crucial during a pandemic.
“Having someone disruptive cannot be tolerated during this public pandemic, which led the Department to determine that it was best to terminate her employment,” Ferre said.
Ferre also shared a copy of the email Jones sent to the state, which DeSantis referenced during a Tuesday afternoon news conference when he called the matter a “non-issue.”
In the email, Jones said she was asked by a reporter why she was no longer working with the dashboard.
“I said I’m not allowed to do interviews with the press. I said they’ve got a team working on it now, and that what I meant when I said don’t expect the same level of accessibility is that they are busy and can’t answer every single email they get right away, and it that was ridiculous that I managed to do it in the first place and that I was tired and needed a break from working two months straight and am finally taking a vacation,” Jones wrote in the email.