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Data Scientist Fired from Florida Department of Health Publishes Own Numbers of Coronavirus Cases in Florida; U.S. Outbreaks Worsens, Death Toll Surpasses 121,000; Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is Interviewed About the Police Reform Efforts. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2020 - 08:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Most of the rally crowd did not wear masks. There were more MAGA hats than masks. They also did not socially distance. This is exactly the type of gathering that the White House Coronavirus Task Force warns against. The nation's top health officials say they see a disturbing surge that is not under control.

Joining us now is Rebekah Jones. She was fired last month from her job as a data scientist with the Florida Department of Health. She recently launched a coronavirus dashboard of her own which uses markedly different numbers than the Florida Department of Health does. Rebekah, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So you had this controversial parting with the Florida department of health that most of us remember back in May. You said that they wanted you to manipulate data. They said that you were insubordinate and breaking policy. Then fast forward to now, and you have decided to crunch the numbers and put out your own dashboard with your own data.

And yesterday, you put out some very damning tweets of what you say Florida is still doing. So let me just read to folks at home. You say, "I have multiple sources at the Department of Health who have just told me that they have been instructed this week to change the numbers and begin to slowly deleting deaths and cases so it looks like Florida is improving next week in the lead-up to July 4th, like they've, "made it over the hump." Next tweet, "I have independently verified they have deleted at least 1,200 cases in the last week. They're only reporting all of the cases now so they can restrict reporting next week to make everyone think it's over. I've had two Department of Health employees in different offices confirm."

So obviously, this is very attention getting. You know, incendiary -- these are inflammatory claims. So what's your evidence beyond word of mouth, that you've had people tell you this, what evidence have you seen? JONES: Well, I wouldn't come forward with anything unless I had

vetted it fully. There was a lot of pressure when I was first fired for not changing the numbers to speak to the governor's rule or this greater conspiracy, which I was very clear I never said any of that. I never had any personal evidence that any of that was going on.

There are a few brave souls at DOH who still talk to me and communicate with me, and they have forwarded me emails, communications, other documentation. I have checked my numbers myself through the data and the information that DOH publishes, and unfortunately that does seem to be what's going on.

CAMEROTA: But deleting deaths, what does that mean?

JONES: So every day they publish a line list of every person who's been confirmed positive and who has died who was confirmed positive. And you can check that list every day to see if there are any changes made. Every person is given a gender, a county, an age, whether or not they traveled. They have a case state. They have an event date. You can create a unique I.D. for each one of these people. And then you can check later files to see if those people have just disappeared from the file.

Sometimes there's corrections that are small that were not unusual while I was there, but that volume over time is shocking. I have always kind of said it's surprising to me that they're even allowing people to see this giant increase in cases, 86 percent in one day at its peak. And now I think I understand why they have allowed that data to come forward, so that next week as they begin to taper it off regardless of what's going on, they can say, hey, look, we're over it, we're past it. Come to Florida, enjoy our beaches for July 4th weekend. Everything is great.

CAMEROTA: Let's look at the different numbers that your dashboard uses versus what they're using. So -- say again? Well, this is what the Florida Department of Health uses, and I think this is your dashboard. The positive cases, 111,000 -- more than 111,000, new cases 3,200, deaths 3,333. Then theirs is less -- their total cases are 103,000. Their hospitalizations are -- we have that. That's a different metric than you used, but their deaths are 3,238, meaning 300 less than yours. And so are you saying that that's because they have already deleted those?

JONES: No. Actually, the numbers that I'm using on my dashboard are the DOH numbers. They come directly from the DOH data. The difference is that I count everybody who's tested positive regardless of the type of tests that they have received, and I include nonresidents. So Florida deletes nonresident deaths from its public facing information but still includes it in the back end data that I designed. So I knew exactly where exactly that data was being published.


And I don't think honestly that anybody cares what your legal address was, if you were sick in Florida and you died in a Florida hospital, you should be included in that total. And so I am adding those nonresident and resident deaths, whereas DOH only shows the resident deaths.

CAMEROTA: Is that where the rub is? Would that explain the rub, because they admit that they don't count nonresidents. So if somebody is on vacation in Florida, if somebody winters in Florida, Florida doesn't count those. And I think they admit that. So is that why you're seeing the deletion, or is something else going on?

JONES: No, this is not just people being attributed to the wrong state. These are people who got sick and died here in a Florida hospital. They're not people who got sick and then went home to Massachusetts and died. It's an entirely different field that they use when they publish. These are people who actually died in the Florida hospital. And I think that people care more about where the virus is in their community than they do whether or not somebody is -- has a permanent legal address that's in Florida. Whether they're staying here for several months with a family member or a relative and then they get sick and they die here. You are part of this community. You walk around in the same grocery stores and you're walking around hopefully in the same hospital. So that is what people really care about.

CAMEROTA: I should let everybody know, we have reached out to the Florida Department of Health. We have not yet heard back from them. We will update our viewers as soon as we hear back from them about your claims. Rebekah Jones, thank you very much for being here, for the information.

JONES: Thank you for having me.

CAMEROTA: Joining us now is John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Glad to be here.

CAMEROTA: You're still here? And CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sorry to jump the gun there. Sanjay, big picture, what's happening today, what are you seeing?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the numbers in many states around the country going in the wrong direction. I think people are seeing that now. We see this map that we have been looking at now for a few months. We'd like that map that is mostly red to be mostly green. And I say that with full sort of consideration that in many countries around the world if you had similar maps in their countries, they would look fully green. So this is obviously concerning. We sort of implemented these stay-at-home orders for a period of time in mid-March, and then we stopped the treatment too early.

This is a bit of a graphic example, but it's almost like if you had a patient who was bleeding, you put some pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding for a bit, and then you kind of got bored and you took the pressure off, and now it's starting to bleed again and you have got to decide that to do. I know that's sobering, but that is the state that we're in.

And people have to I think take this very seriously right now. We've had to take it seriously all along, but now we're seeing, in addition to the numbers going up, there's a lot more overall cases out there. So if you have a lot more cases with the contagious virus, it can spread even more rapidly and go into what's called exponential growth. We can wake up on morning on your program and suddenly look at that map and look at those numbers and say, wait a second, what were they a week ago and what are they today? It makes no sense that they would go up that quickly, but that can happen.

BERMAN: I have to say, Sanjay, that's exactly what happened. I took a few days off last week. I came back and I couldn't believe what I was seeing in Texas and Arizona. These are the types of numbers -- we put them up on the screen. There are seven states with a record number of hospitalizations in the last 24 hours. That's the number of states where you're seeing increases, 26 states in red there showing an increase in new cases, and hospitalizations, seven states are seeing record numbers of hospitalizations. So the facts are agreed to right now. The facts are that in these seven states with record numbers at of hospitalizations it is worse than it has ever been. The patient is bleeding, as you say. So what needs to be done today to stop the bleeding?

GUPTA: Well, I think even a couple of weeks ago, John, maybe before you went on vacation a couple of weeks ago, I would have said, look, I get the idea that nobody wants to go into stay-at-home mode again. I don't want to go into stay-at-home mode again. And there have been countries around the world where you've been able to not go into lockdown and have significant impact because you are really diligent about face masks in public, really diligent about physical distancing.

By the way, people think of these as silly things. They work. There are fewer than 300 people who have died in South Korea, and they never went into lockdown mode. So they work, but we're not doing it. So I think now the decision about what to do next I think may not be left up to us. We may need to go into stay at home lockdown mode at least in some parts of the country again. It's an aggressive treatment to try and get this metastasizing infection under control.


Somebody said something to me early on, I think it may have been Ron Klain, I can't remember who it was, that said, look, if you're overreacting to this, then you're probably reacting just the right amount. That's the nature. You can get behind the curve on something like this that you won't know what hit you. So I think we may need to implement some of that again, and people are sort of dancing around it, like we're hearing in Texas, should stay-at-home. I think it may need to become a mandatory thing again.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, younger people are getting sick, and by that I mean 50 years old and younger. What should we know about that?

GUPTA: Well, the virus had largely stayed the same. So I don't think that we're thinking that this virus is changing in a way that's affecting younger people differently. I think we just have a larger percentage of younger people becoming infected. I don't think that's surprising. As people who have started to become more mobile, it's younger people that are more mobile than vulnerable or older people. So as you have more and more younger people getting infected, you're going to see an absolute number of people who are younger that are also getting sick. Again, it's going to be a much smaller percentage overall as compared to older or people with preexisting conditions, but you're going to see that.

I think in places like Florida where 20 percent of the population is 65 years and older, it's really concerning to me. My parents live down there. You do have a lot of young people as well, especially in some of these cities. If you start to get into situations where more vulnerable populations are becoming infected, not just nursing homes but retirement communities or neighborhoods where a lot of people who are older people live, that could be a significant problem in terms of the tax on the hospital system.

CAMEROTA: For sure. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much. Great to talk to you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Up next, we're going to talk to two health officials in two states that are emerging as hot spots in America. What are they seeing? Stay with us.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New coronavirus cases soaring this morning in several states. Arizona reported a new daily record, nearly 3,600 cases and Texas reported more than 5,000 new infections, breaking that state's daily record.

Joining me now is Will Humble. He's the executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

Also, Sarah Eckhardt. She's oversees the coronavirus for Travis County, Texas, as a special assistant to Judge Sam Biscoe.

Will, I want to start with you.

WILL HUMBLE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ARIZONA PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION: I think we can now agree as to what's happening. It's clear what's happening in Arizona and Texas for that matter. We showed the number of new cases. The record number of new cases and we can show the graph for hospitalizations as well. They keep on going up in Arizona.

So the discussion now needs to be what do you do about it? What do you do to slow this down? And I have to think it's harder to do it now than it was back in March.

HUMBLE: Yes. So if I was in my old job, I was the state health director during the previous governor's term. You know, what I'd be fo -- to be honest with you, what I'd be focused now on is getting -- sounding the alarm to our hospital systems to get ready, because no matter what you do at this point, given where we are at the increase in cases, the exponential growth, taking into consideration the incubation period for this virus, we're going to go into surge capacity mode by the 4th of July.

So, the most urgent thing I think is to get the hospital systems ready, to get staffed up, to get those emergency plans in place because at this point, I don't see an alternative but to go to crisis standard care in Arizona probably in ten days, maybe less. So --

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, the number of new cases we're seeing now are so far ahead of where we were in March, even in New York and New Jersey, early on when the country in these states went into stay at home or lockdown modes. I guess that's what I'm getting at.

HUMBLE: Yes, no, we're at the top of the -- you said emerging as a hot spot. We're not emerging as hot spot, we are the hot spot. We're double Texas and Florida per capita.

And the steepness of our curve is even steeper. So, that's why I say, the number one thing right now is to get the surge capacity ready a hospital crisis (AUDIO GAP) in my opinion.

Now, what you asked is what can we do to prevent it? You know, I had some answers to that, you know, 3 1/2 weeks ago right after Memorial Day. I was really publicly urging our elected official here to do something, mask requirements, mandatory business mitigation expectations. Some enforceable standards of criteria, letting the cities put in some local requirements, a statewide mask wearing requirement.

Those were things to have done 3 1/2 weeks ago. I mean, they still are valuable and some measures were taken a few days ago by the governor allowing, you know, cities to do some additional things. So I don't have any clear answers for you, what do you do to prevent the worst outcomes now? I mean, I think we're in the phase now if I was at my old job, it's about let's do what we can do to provide the best level of care for what's coming to the hospitals now.

BERMAN: Well, brace yourselves. Simply, that sounds what you're saying.

Sarah, to you, in Texas, we heard from Greg Abbott, the governor, yesterday and in a lot of ways reverse course. He said stay at home if you can. I know that's different than a stay at home order, but it was a stay at home I suppose recommendation.

How would you gauge the appetite for that in Texas this morning?

SARAH ECKHARDT, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO TRAVIS COUNTY JUDGE SAM BISCOE: I don't know if the governor saw the light or felt the heat, but I am glad that he did reverse course, but it is still a request for voluntary compliance with no enforcement.

So, I am -- I am not confident that we will be able to reverse this trajectory. I'm with Will, we're not quite where Arizona is right now. But we know the effective measures that work and we're not deploying them. BERMAN: Do you think you need mandatory stay at home orders in Texas?

ECKHARDT: We need -- we need enforceable orders of a variety of types. We need the flexibility to toggle back and forth in enforcement based on what we're seeing on the ground. We're simply not -- we're not putting in place orders that level up the playing field and assure an effective response.


BERMAN: Talk to me about hospitalizations right now in Travis County.

ECKHARDT: Right now, we're good. Our hospital capacity -- a snapshot in time today we're good. People need to go and get the treatment that they need now. Because we do believe that we can safely surge within the hospitals up to about 1,400 patients.

But beyond that, we start to get a compromising in care. So right now, our hospitalizations, we have about 200 covid-19 patients in the hospital, but that's twice as many as we had two weeks ago and with that kind of exponential growth we are seeing a doubling time now that's less than 20 days.

BERMAN: Yeah. Doubling time is of major concern right there. The question is how much more can you take?

Will, yesterday, the president visited your state, went to Phoenix. You and I talked about this trip yesterday. You were concerned the message it would send when the images like this of the president of the United States speaking in a packed room. I mean, there's just no social distancing there and most of the people were told by our reporters in the room they weren't wearing masks.

Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Gupta, said this was worse than he ever thought -- imagined it could be.

What message does this send?

HUMBLE: Yes, and so that -- that's exactly my biggest concern is the message that it sends. You know, here's one -- here's the thing. That was the packed room, maybe 3,500 folks there. That's going to result in probably 100, 150 new cases in Arizona, something like that.

But worse than that, it sends an endorsement to anybody else who was thinking of putting a big venue like this together with really no mitigation measures at all, that it's an okay thing to do. I mean, when a governor and a president show up to an event like that, it endorses that kind of behavior and so, to me that's a bigger concern than the couple of hundred cases that are probably going to come out of that event.

BERMAN: Will Humble, Sarah Eckhardt, I appreciate the discussion this morning. I don't think it makes me feel better, but I think it's important to know what's going on. Thanks for being here.

HUMBLE: Take care. ECKHARDT: Thanks for having us.

BERMAN: The House and Senate will debate separate police reform bills in a matter of hours. Is there any chance for a compromise? We're going to talk to a Democratic lawmaker, next.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The House and Senate will debate separate police reform bills today. Public sentiment has shifted in support of police reform. So will Democrats and Republicans be able to resolve their differences?

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Good morning, Congresswoman. Great to see you.

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Good morning. Great to be with you as well.

CAMEROTA: So, the bill came out of your committee, House Judiciary. It goes to go a full House vote today, and, of course, it has to be married somehow with the Senate plan, and therein lies the rub. It seems as though at this moment, Democrats and Republicans are not on the same page.

Let me play for you what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For something to happen, we're going to have to face the reality of police brutality, the rally of the need for justice in policing, and the recognition there are many, many good people in law enforcement, but not all, and that we have to address those concerns. So far, they were trying to get away with murder actually. The murder of George Floyd.


CAMEROTA: Congresswoman, how are Republicans trying to get away with murder?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think, you know, if Republicans are going to insist on half measures on things like studies about chokeholds, that is absolutely letting people get away with murder. The reality is there's an urgency across this country on police brutality and anti-blackness, and that's why you have seen the sustained protests of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets across the country in red and blue districts because people understand that this is wrong. Eight and a half minutes of putting a knee on somebody's neck and depriving their brain of oxygen is wrong.

You know, qualified immunity with no ability to hold police officers accountable is wrong. And so, people don't want to see studies they know what's wrong and they know that we need to fix it at the federal level by passing the Justice and Policing Act which I think Democrats did a really good job of working with a number of law enforcement agencies across the country, but also recognizing the urgency of the protesters to say no more no-knock warrants, no more chokeholds, you know, restrict qualified immunity. Make sure that we know which officers have been engaged in misconduct if they go from one department to the other.

And most of all, let's give money to black and brown communities across America to re-imagine what policing should look like, so that everybody is safe.

CAMEROTA: But is incremental change better than no change? Meaning in other words, are there some things that Democrats are willing to give on?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know, that's always got to be a process obviously of coming to a conclusion in a divided set of chambers. But what I will say is that at the end of the day, we have to be able to say to Philonise Floyd and Breonna Taylor's family and Tony McDade's family that we actually did something that made a difference.

I remember on the Judiciary Committee, Alisyn, when Philonise Floyd said to us, do not let my brother be just a face on a T-shirt or a name on someone's lips. This is the time that we have to make substantial change. So, no, we're not going to compromise for half measures, but, of course, this is always a process and we will do -- you know, we will see what we can do.

But the vast majority of people across this country know that things like chokeholds are wrong and the Republicans are wrong to continue to insist on these -- you know, on these half measures that really make no change whatsoever.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about what's going on in your home state of Washington state.