Yet another GOP governor is being accused of changing COVID-19 numbers to make reopening seem more reasonable

Yet another GOP governor is being accused of changing COVID-19 numbers to make reopening seem more reasonable
Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., joins President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, in the Cabinet Room of the White House Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, during a discussion with Governors-Elect from around the nation. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

From the beginning of the novel coronavirus story, there have been legitimate concerns over whether China was accurately reporting its number of cases or its rate of deaths. In Russia, what appears to be an astonishingly low COVID-19 mortality rate is made more than a little suspect by the way that defenestration remains at the top of that nation’s charts.


But you don’t have to travel around the world to find inaccurate reporting on either cases or deaths related to COVID-19. Georgia has been repeatedly rearranging—or simply altering—reported numbers to make it seem as if things there are getting better. (They’re not.) For weeks, Florida has suspended the reporting of deaths by medical examiners, even as those examiners complain that the state tally doesn’t match their information.

And now Florida has fired the person in charge of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard after she refused to alter data to make it appear that Florida is safe to reopen.

As The Guardian reports, Dr. Rebekah Jones was fired on the same day that Florida enacted the first stage of its reopening plan. According to Jones, that firing came after she was asked to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”

Less than a month ago, the dashboard created by Jones was trotted out at the White House and praised as an example of “transparency.” But with the medical examiners being stifled and Jones out for refusing to alter data, the only thing that seems to be transparent is that Florida governor Ron DeSantis is not being honest with the citizens of his state.

DeSantis has been taking a victory lap around the state, claiming that the mere 46,000 cases and 2,000 deaths in Florida shows that COVID-19 isn’t as bad as predicted, and claiming those totals were inflated by New Yorkers who came there after getting sick. Meanwhile, medical examiners have called the state’s death numbers “a sham” and after Jones was fired, information was removed from the state site. That includes eliminating a number of suspected cases that had not yet been tested, and even removing cases that had already received a positive result but not been included in one of DeSantis’ sanctioned announcements.

Dr. Jones says she was given two choices: either change the numbers or resign. She refused to do either, and was fired.

Right-wing media has been continuously flogging the idea that the number of cases of COVID-19 and the number of resulting deaths is being overreported. The evidence for this claim appears to be … actually, they don’t need any evidence. Meanwhile, the truth appears to be that at least two states are purposely altering or hiding public health information in order to make their decisions to rush into reopening seem more reasonable.

There are over 21 million people in Florida. DeSantis clearly believes he can lose a few—or a few thousand—and no one will notice.

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