Red States Cooking Their Coronavirus Data? The F*ck You Say!
Numbers have a known liberal bias. You can't expect Republican governors to simply take coronavirus stats from medical examiners and county health departments at face value. And certainly not when they need to "prove" that sending people back to breathe all over each other in public spaces is a "good" idea. You have to expect a little fudging.
Or a lot of fudging. Let's round up all the data fuckery stories this morning, shall we? Stick around for Arizona at the end, which wins today's Coronavirus Chutzpah Prize in a walk.
First Up: Florida, if you can even believe it!
As first reported by Florida Today, the creator of the Sunshine State's COVID-19 dashboard says she has been shitcanned for refusing to censor and fudge some numbers. In an email to the local CBS affiliate, Rebekah Jones said she was terminated after declining to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen."
"Every line of code, every little graphic, was built by me," Jones told the Washington Post. "No one ever touched that dashboard. I built it and the underlying data by myself, working 16 hour days, every day without a break." Nevertheless, she no longer has access to the program, since she, and her pesky fealty to actual data, were inconvenient for the state's push to reopen without delay.
This isn't the first time Governor Ron DeSantis's administration got caught playing fast and loose with the COVID-19 data. They've already admitted to whiting out all the non-Florida residents who are rude enough to die there and disappearing early cases from the state's database. So it's not exactly surprising that they shoved aside someone who refused to give them a free hand to massage the data.
"As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months," Jones emailed to the followers of the COVID-19 dashboard. "After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it."
Georgia: Sunday, Thursday HAPPY DAYS!
Data can be such a spaz, you know? Always jumping around, low one day, high the next. Sometimes you just need to smooth it out to impose some order. Like if there are wild swings in covid deaths and infections, you rearrange the days from highest to lowest on the graph so it shows a nice downhill slope.
Let's look a little closer at that x-axis, shall we?
Ah, yes. April 28, followed by April 27, April 29, May 1, April 30, May 4, May 6, May 5, May 2, May 7, April 26, May 3, May 8, and then May 9. Totally normal calendar!
Governor Brian Kemp's office has a perfectly good explanation for this, and it is ... DON'T BLAME US.
An unidentified spokeswoman for the governor told The Atlanta Journal Constitution, which first reported the hinky charts, that the malefactor was a "software vendor," while Kemp's communications director tweeted that it was an attempt to "more easily demonstrate peak values" to help the public better understand the data.
Arizona: It's a Dry Stupid
All that southern humidity is warping the data. Let's head west for some truly evil fuckery!
A consortium of media outlets recently sued the state to force it to release data on coronavirus cases in nursing homes. (Florida only released that data after getting sued as well. Birds of a feather.) Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has steadfastly refused to release that info, citing generalized privacy concerns, and his administration hired two outside law firms to defend the decision in court.
"There is no basis I can see for withholding numbers and locations of COVID-19 incidents from the public," the media plaintiffs' attorney David Bodney told ABC15. "It's not only counter to Arizona public records law, it's contrary to good policy. It really undercuts the public's right to know in a very fundamental way what its government is up to."
But the state has put forth a novel defense of its data hoarding, and it is that "Public disclosure of the name or address of a congregate setting could lead to discrimination, stigmatization, retaliation, societal exclusion, and safety threats against all concerned." That's right, the state has a sacred obligation to protect the viability of nursing homes and ensure that people still come to visit by hiding coronavirus outbreaks.
See, if the government coughed up data on nursing home deaths and infections, it would stigmatize the facilities and they wouldn't be able to hire staff. As proof, the state's lawyers cite to ... a case where an incapacitated woman in a care setting was impregnated and the facility wound up closing. No, really!
"These issues threatened the facility's viability, caused significant problems obtaining adequate insurance, and eventually forced Hacienda to close the skilled nursing portion of its operation due to financial problems," the government's most recent filing states.
The brief includes a declaration from the Arizona health department's assistant director Colby Bower blaming the publicity after the alleged rape for the facility's closure.
"For example, Hacienda HealthCare experienced significant turnover and safety threats as a result of the negative publicity surrounding the facility in late 2018 and into 2019," he attested. "Multiple directors of nursing resigned, and Hacienda experienced significant turnover among middle and upper management."
"There was even a shooting in Hacienda's parking lot," Bowers swore, with a straight face.
If the media had just kept their noses out of it, then the fine facility would still be serving the community today!
Or, maybe not. As Arizona's ABC15 points out, Governor Ducey himself harshly criticized Hacienda Healthcare and demanded that its senior staff be fired, the facility was cited for multiple failures of care, and the shooting in the parking lot was a domestic dispute entirely unrelated to media coverage of the rape case (which is still pending).
You do have to give Ducey's people points for creativity, though. Georgia's flogging bullshit charts, Florida's got bog standard censorship and retaliation, and we didn't even get to Texas possibly adding antibody tests in with the regular infection diagnostics to make its infection rate look lower. But Arizona is out there using a rape case to justify withholding information about a viral pandemic. Because the West really is different.
Big ups, Grand Canyon State, you're really bringin' the crazy!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.