States scale down COVID-19 reporting frequency

Two weeks ago, I reported that Florida had made a big change to its COVID-19 data reporting: the state switched from daily updates to weekly updates. Other states are making similar changes. Only about half of states update their COVID-19 data every day, NPR reported last week. But it is important to view these changes in context.

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COVID-19 data whistleblower Rebekah Jones gets arrested, tests positive

Late Sunday, January 17, COVID-19 data scientist Rebekah Jones turned herself in to Florida Law Enforcement authorities. The charge against her, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on the 18th, is “one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices”. She allegedly hacked a government communication system and sent an authorized message urging workers to “[s]peak up before another 17,000 are dead.”

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Florida data scientist faces police break-in

In May, Rebekah Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health. As a specialist in geographic information systems (GIS), she worked on the department’s COVID-19 dashboard; she claims that she was fired because she refused to manipulate data to look like Florida was in a better spot for reopening. After her firing, Jones started her own, independent Florida dashboard which includes more open information and methodology details. This past Monday, Florida state police raided Jones’ home. They seized her computer, which she had been using to update her Florida state and school data dashboards. They also pointed guns at her and her children.

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Florida is no longer sending tests to Quest Diagnostics

This past Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) announced that the department would stop working with Quest Diagnostics. Quest is one of the biggest COVID-19 test providers in the nation, with test centers and labs set up in many states. The company claimed in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times that it has “provided more COVID-19 testing on behalf of the citizens of Florida than any other laboratory.”

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