This story won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who remembers what NRO‘s Charles Cooke wrote about Rebekah Jones a year ago. In case you’ve forgotten, Jones claimed that she’d been asked to falsify data on Florida’s COVID website. At the time, when CNN was busy making Gov. Andrew Cuomo into a pandemic hero and liberals were eager to trash Gov. DeSantis, this became a big story.
Today, NBC News reports that the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Inspector General has looked into Jones’ claims and reached the same conclusion.
The 27-page report from the Florida Department of Health’s Office of Inspector General said it found “insufficient evidence” to support Rebekah Jones’ accusations that she was asked to falsify Covid positivity rates or misrepresent them on the state’s dashboard she helped design. The report also “exonerated” officials accused by Jones of wrongdoing because they removed a data section from the website to ensure that private individual health information was not released publicly.
The independent report paints a portrait of an employee who did not understand public health policy or the significance of epidemiological data, did not have high-level access to crucial information and leveled claims that made professional health officials “skeptical.”
The report did not examine one of Jones’ most explosives claims: that Florida intentionally hid deaths to make the pandemic seem less deadly.
That conspiracy theory, which Jones alternately promoted and recanted on Twitter before her account was suspended for violating the platform’s terms of service, has persisted on social media for more than a year, despite the lack of evidence.
Of the four specific claims considered by the IG, all four were found to have “insufficient evidence” and though he’s not as conclusive about what did happen, the report does spell out that Jones’ claims don’t make much sense. [emphasis added]
Allegation 1: Dr. Roberson directed the complainant and other DOH staff to falsify COVID- 19 positivity rates.
Allegation 2: Ms. Coppola pressured the complainant to falsify COVID-19 positivity rates as directed by Dr. Roberson…
Conclusion (Allegations I and 2): Unsubstantiated. Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, there is insufficient evidence to clearly support a violation of a law, rule, or policy, as described by the complainant, due to conflicting testimonial evidence and the lack of witnesses to the April 26, 2020 meeting between the complainant, Dr. Roberson, and Ms. Coppola.
In addition, the totality of the information obtained by the OIG indicates no reasonable cause for Dr. Roberson or Ms. Coppola to have directed and/or pressured the complainant or other DOH staff to falsify or otherwise alter COVlD-19 data as alleged, because achieving ~10% positivity was not a criterion for reopening according to the WH and Florida reopening plans.
Moreover, without system access to COVlD-19 surveillance data in Merlin and ESSENCE, the complainant only had the ability to change or otherwise alter the dashboard’s visualization of the COVlD-19 data analysis that had already been published and distributed in final daily reports by the time the complainant received the dataset from the BOE. Therefore, if the complainant or other DOH staff were to have falsified COVID-19 data on the dashboard, the dashboard would then not have matched the data in the corresponding final daily report. Such a discrepancy would have been detectable by BOE staff conducting data quality assurance, as well as other parties, both within and outside the DOH, including but not limited to CHDs, local governments, researchers, the press/media, and the general public.
The IG was more definitive about allegation #3: [emphasis added]
Allegation 3: At the direction of Dr. Roberson and Dr. Blackmore, the calculation of new case positivity was misrepresented on the DOH COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard…
Conclusion: Unfounded. Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, did not occur.
Prior to April 30, 2020, DOH only reported COVlD-19 positivity based on “overall positivity.” Beginning on April 30, 2020, the BOE developed a second calculation, “new case positivity,” which was reported in addition to overall positivity on subsequent daily reports and the dashboard. This second calculation was added to show current trends of positive cases in Florida separate from the overall positivity occurring since the beginning of the pandemic.
The OIG found no evidence that the DOH misrepresented or otherwise misled the public regarding how positivity rates were calculated.
And finally allegation #4: [emphasis added]
Allegation 4: Dr. Roberson, Dr. Blackmore, and Mr. Pritchard directed the complainant to restrict access to underlying data that supported what appeared on the COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard…
Conclusion: Exonerated. Based upon an analysis of the available evidence, the alleged conduct, as described by the complainant, occurred but was not found to be a violation of any governing directive.
The complainant confirmed to the OlG that COVID-19 data was not deleted; rather, access to the dashboard’s underlying data was temporarily removed and then restored. Sworn subject and witness testimonies confirmed the complainant was directed to temporarily remove the “data hub” from the dashboard so the BOE could review what data had been made public and determine whether PII [Personally Identifiable Information] had been released. Once the BOE completed its review and confirmed no PII had been released, the complainant was directed to restore the “data hub” less than 24 hours later.
These are not the only claims Jones made which didn’t hold up. Still, this would seem to be the last nail in the coffin for her credibility as a “whistleblower” since it was this same IG who initially said she might qualify as one.
Last year, the same IG had said Jones qualified for “whistleblower” protection. Now it finds her claims are unsubstantiated
There was lots of media coverage about that prelim finding. This is the final reporthttps://t.co/aGUQ5YkhjQ
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) May 26, 2022
Caputo sums it up.
Just threading this media note here https://t.co/6p3m4iZw26
— Marc Caputo (@MarcACaputo) May 26, 2022
For her part, Jones has put out a TikTok video in which she says the IG “found in my favor” on one charge. She’s counting allegation #4 as a win even though the IG said the state was “exonerated” because what occurred “was not found to be a violation of any governing directive.” It was a complaint about something that wasn’t a problem. How exactly is that a win for Jones?
She goes on to say the IG “threw their hands up” on the first two charges. She fails to mention that the IG said there was “no reasonable cause” for the people she accused to have done what she claims they did since it wouldn’t have changed the underlying data which was also public. In any case, Jones says she’s now going to file a lawsuit so maybe this will continue to drag on for a while longer.