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Florida COVID-19 data chief says she was removed from post after refusing to censor data

Rebekah Jones, the architect and onetime manager of Florida's COVID-19 dashboard, said on Monday she was removed from her post after she would not censor data.

In an email to CBS12 News, Jones said she refused to "manually change data to drum up support" for Florida's plan to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The dashboard shares data on coronavirus cases, testing, and deaths by county and ZIP code, and is used by the public and academic and private researchers working on coronavirus models. Jones led a team of Florida Department of Health data scientists and public health officials to create the dashboard, which was praised last month by Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force.

Earlier Monday, Florida Today reported that on May 5, Jones sent an email to researchers letting them know that she had been removed from her position, and for "reasons beyond my division's control," they would no longer be publishing or fixing data. Jones wrote that she did not know "what data they are now restricting," and "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."

Over the last few weeks, the dashboard has gone offline, data has disappeared without explanation, and it's been difficult to gain access to underlying data sheets, Florida Today reports. The Florida Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment on the data and Jones' removal from her position.