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Former Florida Department of Health employee issues public statement with details about her removal

Posted at 3:28 PM, May 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-23 18:28:19-04

The former DOH employee who claims she was fired for objecting to manipulate COVID-19 case numbers issued a public statement with more details about her removal.

Rebekah Jones is the former health department analyst who made headlines earlier this week after she claimed she was removed from her position crunching COVID-19 case data after she objected to censoring the numbers.

On Wednesday, May 23, Gov. DeSantis attempted to clear the record in Florida. By doing so, he also spoke about Jones.

“She is not an epidemiologist, she is not the chief architect of our web portal that is another false statement,” Gov. DeSantis said. “She’s not a data scientist. She’s somebody that got a degree in journalism communication and geography. She is not involved in collating any data, she does not have the expertise to do that."

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis lashes out at DOH employee who claims she was asked to censor coronavirus data

Jones released a public statement on Friday. She claims she never implied that Gov. DeSantis was involved with asking her to manipulate, delete or hide data.

"I’m just a scientist trying to do good in the world, and did not want to be at the center of a national controversy, which the Governor made impossible when he defamed me in front of the vice president of the United States," Jones said.

In the statement, she said Gov. DeSantis called into question her role in creating the dashboard. However, she says she was the sole architect and manager of the dashboard and its published underlying data.

"Everything had been going well until I started receiving requests to edit, change and hide data from its original format and information," she said.

The statement also says Deputy Secretary of Health Shamarial Roberson and Scott Pritchard, an epidemiologist on the response team, asked her in some way to "manipulate, hide or delete data."

RELATED: Calls for investigation after FL Health Dept accused of ousting data mgr for not covering up coronavirus numbers

Once she made changes, like instructed, she was removed from the dashboard the next day, Jones said.

"I had never in my academic or professional career as a scientist been asked to manipulate data to influence public opinion, and I am still caught in disbelief that this person remains employed by DOH, while I have been wrongfully terminated and defamed by the Governor and state employees," Jones said.

"The only directive I refused was to manually change data in a misleading way to drum up public support of resuming pre-pandemic level of activities without a science- based assessment of each county’s respective risk or readiness to do so. The request to mislead the public with falsified data made me uneasy, and I immediately reached out to my supervisor, as well as my friends and family, about what happened. It was no secret in our office that Shamarial Roberson asked me to compromise my integrity and use my dashboard to mislead the public about the safety of reopening each county."

Jones has asked that her family's privacy be respected at this time. She said she encourages a "fair and rigorous investigation of these events through the proper channels."

To read her full statement, click here.