ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — When the government failed, Florida's former manager of COVID-19 data and surveillance stepped up to inform the public about coronavirus in the state, Forbes said.
The magazine called Rebekah Jones its first-ever "Technology Person of the Year" for her efforts in building the Florida Department of Health's data dashboard, which still is in use today showing the latest COVID-19 case count, deaths, testing information and more.
In the earlier days of the pandemic, the dashboard was seen as a model for other state health departments given the information it provided. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, said he was "proud of the folks" who worked on the dashboard.
"That’s the kind of knowledge and power we need to put into the hands of American people so that they can see where the virus is, where the cases are and make decisions," said Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task on April 19.
Fortune magazine also laid on the praise, placing Jones on its list of "40 Under 40" for healthcare.
The manager, however, was taken off the dashboard project and fired after she said she was asked to manipulate numbers on the dashboard. The state claimed Jones "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination" while at the Department of Health.
DeSantis later said Jones was "not the chief architect of the web portal."
“What she was doing was putting data on our portal that the scientists didn’t believe was valid data. She didn’t listen to her supervisors. She had many people of her in the change of command. She was dismissed because of that," he said during a news conference.
Jones later would go on to launch her own, independent COVID-19 data dashboard and one that monitors cases across the country in schools.
But the once previously unknown state employee again would make headlines in early December when state law enforcement officers entered her home amid accusations she made unauthorized access to the state's communication system. Jones denies the charges and has since filed suit against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
"Regardless, she is the latest technologist who stepped up to fill the vacuum left by governments during Covid-19," Forbes said.
Jones tweeted her appreciation for Forbes' honor, fully embracing her geekiness.
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