It took far too long for media outrage and accusations against Governor Ron DeSantis over his COVID performance, to calm down. The pandemic has had to recede in order to allow the squeals of dismay to subside. Even today, there is still support for the slings-and-arrows approach, despite overall results showing Florida has weathered the storms better than most other states.
Rebekah J. Jones, a former computer worker at the Florida Department of Health was one of the main reasons for the criticism. Jones raised her profile and portrayed herself as a whistleblower, exposing corruption and manipulations from DeSantis as well as from within the FDOH. Jones claimed that she was instructed to manipulate data to position the state as being more effective in responding to the pandemic. Jones was the darling of the media and was interviewed by many networks.
In February 2021, I wrote about Jones’ problems and her family in the press. It showed how Jones was used to criticizing DeSantis while failing to provide solid proof. Her myth-making has now been slammed. The FDOH Office of the Inspector General has issued a 27-page report which states conclusively that as far as the various claims made by Jones, she has abjectly failed to substantiate…anything.
The IG investigation looked into the allegations and who was behind the subterfuges and concluded that Jones’ claims were not valid. They found all the allegations unsubstantiated and exonerated the people named in them. Jones was found to be nothing but a fabulist.
Most of her findings were either known or she had not provided sufficient evidence back in 2020 when she became a household name. While she was able to make the allegations, the press allowed her to continue. They were also charmed by her comments, despite the fact that her story had changed significantly.
Jones was initially a prominent figure because she was unhappy with the FDOH’s tracking of positivity rates. Jones made her first appearance on the media radar in May 2020. Her comment was that she didn’t approve of the measurement methods used. Jones is neither a scientist nor a doctor. She is a computer technician so her disagreement with the metrics is invalid. Jones said that there was no manipulation at the time.
Jones has not claimed any tampering of data on deaths and hospital symptom surveillance, hospitalizations COVID-19, new cases, or overall testing rates. These are core elements of any assessment regarding the outbreak and federal criteria for reopening. Jones also acknowledges that Florida was transparent and has been able to control the pandemic. She herself takes some credit for this.
Later, her story changed significantly. She claimed that she was instructed to alter data and figures to show a different level of state success. This would help DeSantis’ image and his desire for reopening the state. Although there were obvious problems with the charge, the media chose to ignore them.
Jones made vague accusations, but her most direct claim was that Jones was merely making a generalization. Jones was instructed to stop entering data for a short period of time, to not change any case numbers, but to verify the dates for reporting certain numbers against accurately collected data. This was a corrective measure to improve reporting times.
Jones’ claims were not being reported by journalists because Jones did not have the power to alter the data she was told to alter. It was literally beyond her pay grade. Only the FDOH’s top-ranking doctors had access to these data. The data would only be provided to her for uploading into the COVID portal of the state. This exposes the fraud.
She could not alter the data she was given. This would cause conflict with the documents that contain the collected data. The FDOH gathered reports from all departments in the state, then compiled them, and finally loaded the collected data into the portal. Any discrepancy in data would be easy to find and refute. Official reports from the affected regions would also reflect the alteration. Numerous news outlets in Florida have been closely monitoring the state’s portal since her initial allegations of problems. As she claims, there has not been any evidence of data manipulation in the media. This was the conclusion of the IG Report.
Moreover, Jones did not have system access to COVlD-19 surveillance information in Merlin or ESSENCE. Jones was limited to changing the visualization of COVlD-19 data analysis in the dashboard. This data had been published in final daily reports and distributed to Jones by the BOE. If the DOH staff or the complainant falsified COVID-19 data, then the dashboard would not have matched the final daily reports. This discrepancy would have been detected by BOE staff performing data quality assurance as well as other parties within and outside of the DOH.
This is just one example of the absurd media praise for Rebekah. Despite persistent rumors that Florida was manipulating the numbers and DeSantis misrepresenting COVID statistics to increase his stature, the only source of these claims has been found over the years. These claims have been denied by anyone else. No data has been presented that would support them. Jones has been the only one that has been cited as an example of wrongdoing.
This is the most shocking aspect: Jones has not shown any wrongdoing. While Jones was granted airtime by the media and allowed to make conspiracy claims oxygen, she failed to provide any tangible proof. She has now been proven to be severely deficient in this area.