TAMPA, Fla — The state data scientist ousted from her job helping manage Florida's COVID-19 dashboard is once again raising red flags about the state's lack of transparency when it comes to cases in schools.
Rebekah Jones was invited to speak at a virtual public meeting by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Jones says the state’s refusal to publish data about COVID-19 cases in schools is a “failure of state leadership.”
“Cases are trending upward for every single age group in the state,” she said.
Jones was previously dismissed from her job following a disagreement over what information should be included in the state’s official COVID-19 dashboard. But Monday, she was invited back by Fried to provide analysis on the latest numbers.
“We’ve seen an astronomical increase in pediatric cases,” Jones said during the meeting, which was broadcast on The Florida Channel. “We’ve seen additional pediatric deaths which the state has not been transparent about.”
Jones said other states have been much more forthcoming with information about infection rates in schools.
“Florida is one of now only a few states in the entire Southeast that is not reporting this information,” Jones said. “More than half of districts [in Florida] have taken it upon themselves, to publish information about cases in their schools every single day, because the state leadership has failed to do so.”
Now, Jones and a group of non-profits have created their own dashboard monitoring COVID-19 cases in schools across the country.
She says here in Florida, the number of school-related coronavirus cases has jumped 10 times since the state first accidentally released statewide data, which has since been taken down.
“Schools only opened up three weeks ago and there are already 2,000 confirmed cases in schools. And that’s with only half the districts reporting in the state, with the three largest districts just opening today," she said.
Jones said releasing the complete data is crucial to help best know how to respond.
“Unless we have good data, we cannot understand how this plays out,” Jones said. “There are going to be success stories, and we need to find those success stories, because if we don’t, we will only ever know where we’re failing, and that does nothing to help us improve.”
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