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Researchers in Florida Worry About Access to State Data

May 20, 2020
 
 

The architect and manager of Florida's COVID-19 data dashboard was removed from her post last week, and researchers at several universities in the state told Florida Today that they are concerned about the state limiting access to data about the pandemic.

Rebekah Jones, a geographer who received her Ph.D. from Florida State University, is a geographic information system manager for the state Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. The dashboard she helped create was widely praised for its publicly available data, including by Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House coronavirus task force. But Jones was removed from her role with the dashboard on Friday. The newspaper reported that she in an email expressed worries about data access going forward, including "what data they are now restricting."

In recent weeks, the site had crashed and access to its data had become more difficult, according to the newspaper.

Jones's concerns were shared by several university researchers contacted by Florida Today, including professors at the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and Stetson University.

"We would not accept this lack of transparency for any other natural disaster, so why are we willing to accept it here?" Jennifer Larsen, a researcher at the University of Central Florida's LabX, told the newspaper. "It's all of us being denied access to what we need to know to be safe."

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