Rebekah Jones

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    Florida COVID Action

What do you do if your state refuses to publish accurate data? If you’re Rebekah Jones, you do it yourself. The geospatial scientist designed and managed the COVID-19 tracking dashboard for Florida’s Department of Health. But Jones says that when she refused to fudge the numbers—which would be used to determine if the state was ready to reopen—the department fired her in May, citing “insubordination.” (The governor’s office disputes Jones’ version of events.) Jones says she couldn’t sleep at night knowing that something she’d built was being used to make people feel safe when she knew they weren’t. In June, Jones launched her own website, Florida COVID Action, to publish more reliable data. The whistleblower made a GoFundMe to fund her work, and thousands of people responded, contributing over $200,000. Jones began thinking about building a national database, and in August, she solidified a partnership with Google and nonprofit FinMango. With Google’s cloud computing and data capabilities and FinMango to help manage the project, Jones is now building a data set for every school district in the U.S., including opening dates, restrictions, and number of cases in each district.

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