CBS affiliate: Rebekah Jones’ claims about Florida’s COVID data just don’t add up

Rebekah Jones is the resistance hero who claimed she was fired by Florida’s Department of Health after she refused to alter the state’s COVID data to make things look better than they actually were. To this day she still has a lot of fans and defenders even though her story doesn’t seem to hold up to much scrutiny.

Earlier this month Charles Cooke at NRO covered this same territory pretty convincingly, but yesterday a CBS affiliate in Florida published the results of their own investigation into Jones’ claims. The story was headlined “Ousted dashboard designer’s claims don’t add up, former colleagues and experts say.”

Starting with Jones’ central claim, i.e. that she was asked to alter raw data on cases and deaths, CBS 12 echoes the point made earlier by Charles Cooke. Her former colleages say she never had access to that data in the first place, meaning it wouldn’t have been possible for her to change it.

CBS12 News sent Jones and her attorney a request for evidence proving she was asked to alter raw COVID data and we have not heard back…

A Florida Department of Health staffer working on the COVID response, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CBS12 News that Jones’ allegations are widely disputed amongst DOH employees.

The staffer adds that, from their understanding, Jones did not have access to the state data system or have the privileges to alter raw COVID data.

Here’s how things actually worked according to people CBS 12 spoke with. Counties would send raw data on COVID cases and deaths to the state. The state would then collate that data and send a copy to Jones who would post it on the website. Even if she had tried to change what was posted, as she claims, someone who doubted the numbers could have compared that to the official state data or the county data it was based on to show the numbers were inaccurate. In short, this wouldn’t have worked because Jones couldn’t change the data in all the places it would need to be changed to make a cover-up work.

Nevertheless, Jones has single-handedly convinced hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, of people that Florida’s COVID data is unreliable. CBS 12 reports epidemiologists don’t see a problem with the data.

“Florida does just not stand out to me as though we can’t trust the data or they’re much more inaccurate than any other state. I see no evidence in that,” says Jason Salemi, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF College of Public Health who runs his own COVID data website. “I have not found any reason to believe the [data] reporting in Florida is much worse than anyplace else.”

Salemi is no longer on social media after a disagreement with Jones…

“There’s no way that deaths are missing somehow,” said Natalie Dean, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida. Dean said Florida’s COVID data “doesn’t stand out” compared to other states.

And that’s how this continues to go. Jones, who is not a medical professional, just keeps shouting down any actual doctors who dare to disagree with her.

Some news outlets have turned up some problems with reporting of COVID data. Recently a national study claimed that rural counties had probably undercounted COVID deaths. However, that study applied to rural counties around the country and Florida was probably somewhere in the middle of the pack as far as rural undercounting. Again, here’s professor Salemi:

Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said that while the research on missed deaths in Florida was unsurprising, the state probably ranks in the middle for missed deaths, which is an issue nationwide.

“Florida just doesn’t stand out as hiding something,” he said.

So yes, there may have been some systemic problems, especially in the early part of the pandemic when testing was not widely available in rural areas, which led to inaccurate data in counties around the country. But that’s not the kind of Florida-specific, political cover-up that Rebekah Jones has alleged.

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