At first glance, the story of Rebekah Jones—a brave “COVID-19 scientist” standing up to a corrupt right-wing machine—looks like a bombshell. When the Florida Department of Health (DoH) fired her last May, Jones claimed she had been terminated for refusing to falsify case numbers to support Governor Ron DeSantis’ plans to reopen the economy. Overnight, she became a heroine. She launched her own COVID-19 dashboard, raised half a million dollars, and gathered a Twitter army of 378,000.
Jones shot to stardom because she lent a fresh face to a “Narrative.” According to The Narrative, Florida wasn’t supposed to be winning the fight against the pandemic. It’s full of high-risk seniors, teeming with tourists, and run by a Republican who is an unapologetic ally of former President Donald Trump. To liberal intelligentsia, the idea that DeSantis could handle COVID-19 better than mask-mandating lockdown enthusiasts like Andrew Cuomo or Gavin Newsom was unthinkable.
But by May, the facts had begun contradicting The Narrative. While blue states like New York and California were devastated by COVID-19 despite draconian lockdowns, Florida did relatively well. Per capita, New York has nearly double Florida’s COVID-19 fatalities—and unlike New York, Florida has been open for months.
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