Rebekah Jones was fired last month from her job on the Florida Division of Well being, the place she helped create an information portal in regards to the state’s COVID-19 circumstances. Now, she has created a dashboard of her personal.
In some methods, Jones’s new portal for Florida coronavirus data seems to be so much like the state health department’s. Nevertheless it has just a few key variations that mirror simply how contentious coronavirus information has turn into amid politicized arguments about whether or not it is secure for states to reopen.
Working example: Jones’s dashboard has a map that reveals which Florida counties are prepared for the following section of reopening. By her calculations, solely two of the state’s 67 counties for the time being meet the state’s standards for additional easing restrictions.
Jones says she was initially tasked with constructing basically the identical kind of dashboard for the well being division’s web site in her position as a geographic data system supervisor — till it turned clear what the outcomes would present.
“Once I went to indicate them what the report card would say for every county, amongst different issues they requested me to delete the report card as a result of it confirmed that no counties, just about, have been prepared for reopening,” she says. “They usually did not wish to draw consideration to that.”
Jones says a superior requested her to open up the information and alter the numbers in order that the state’s coronavirus positivity score would change from 18% to 10% — and the state would seem to satisfy its goal to reopen.
She says she refused to do this manipulation and others she was requested to, and she or he was fired on Might 18.
“To me, it didn’t learn like some type of political conspiracy or some increased directive,” Jones says. “It appeared like individuals who anticipated after I introduced in these outcomes, the outcomes to help the plan that they had written, and they didn’t, they appeared panicked, and like that they had to determine a solution to make the outcomes match the plan.”
Florida entered phase one of its reopening on Might 4, in all counties besides Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Seashore. It eased restrictions even additional with the beginning of section two on June 5, however is now among the many greater than 20 states the place new daily cases are rising. To this point, the state has had greater than 73,000 circumstances and almost 3,000 deaths.
The Florida Division of Well being didn’t reply to requests for remark. A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron De Santis stated final month that Jones “exhibited a repeated course of insubordination throughout her time with the division.”
Jones and her legal professional are actually wanting into whether or not she is likely to be protected by a whistleblower legislation. Jones says she had requested at work how you can file a whistleblower criticism, and was fired the following day.
Now a non-public citizen, Jones continues to take subject with the best way the state is calculating its coronavirus positivity fee. The official Florida web site says there are greater than 1.Three million “complete individuals examined” in Florida, of which about 73,500 have been constructive, leading to an “general % constructive” fee of 5.4%.
However Jones says that determine is deceptive.
“I truly wrote the script to create that information, so I do know precisely what it seems to be like,” she says. “And I’ve audited it and checked it with a number of different statisticians and people who find themselves working the press to verify it is right.”
She says that on the state’s dashboard, any one that assessments constructive will probably be counted as a constructive check solely as soon as, irrespective of what number of instances they check constructive. However an individual who assessments unfavourable will probably be counted over and over every time they check unfavourable for the coronavirus.
Jones says that as a result of many residents, reminiscent of well being care staff, require repeated testing, the state’s dashboard is artificially deflating the true positivity fee.
“They’re including their complete check figures as an alternative of their complete individuals, which makes their % constructive extraordinarily low,” she says.
Cindy Prins, a professor of epidemiology on the College of Florida, finds Jones’ dashboard to be extra complete than the state’s.
“There’s some information on there that both wasn’t on the Florida COVID-19 DOH dashboard or was accessible and perhaps wasn’t introduced in the identical method that it is being introduced now … You are simply getting an even bigger image of what is going on on,” Prins says.
She additionally notes that the state’s web site does not seem to make use of the “complete individuals examined” label precisely.
“From a definition standpoint, ‘complete individuals examined’ and what it truly represents is ‘complete variety of assessments performed.’ These are two totally different measures,” says Prins, explaining that she has been examined — but when she have been examined once more, she should not be counted as a separate individual. She’s only a one that’s been examined twice.
“There is a distinction there between complete variety of individuals examined versus complete variety of assessments carried out.”
The state has confronted different questions over its dealing with of coronavirus information. The Miami Herald reported last week that Florida refused for weeks to launch information on COVID-19 deaths at nursing houses and assisted dwelling amenities, at the same time as many different states did so.
The state’s dashboard additionally doesn’t launch information on present circumstances, in accordance with the report.
“[The state health department]’s public information are incomplete, generally modified with out rationalization, and have had data eliminated following questions from reporters,” the Herald reports.
Prins says the general public curiosity in COVID-19 information is a sign that amid the continuing pandemic, many individuals are fascinated by seeing the numbers for themselves. The launch of Jones’s dashboard, she says, permits for a fuller understanding of the outbreak.
They get a visible of what is going on on from each dashboards, she says — they’ll see the numbers and what’s occurring in their very own county. “I do assume that folks have discovered some worth in that the place earlier than, they won’t have actually regarded to that type of supply.”
Natalie Dean is a professor of biostatistics on the College of Florida and a member of the advisory board of the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer information assortment effort launched by The Atlantic. She says it is helpful that Jones’s dashboard connects individuals on to details about testing and well being care — “not simply present them the information, however to assist individuals make choices.”
And Dean says it is useful that Jones makes it simple to export the data she’s utilizing. “Lots of people are making their very own fashions,” she says. “As somebody who does this, it is actually useful to make that information extra accessible.”
With Jones now out of a job, her web site is counting on GoFundMe donations to remain operating. Her purpose is to present individuals a spot with data they’ll belief and discover assist in the event that they want it.
“I believe I am uniquely outfitted to attempt to assist with that,” she says, “so that is what I am doing. I simply I do not need individuals to panic. I do not need anyone to really feel afraid or powerless.”