(New York, NY) – A scientist in Florida said she was fired for refusing to alter COVID-19 data to support the state’s reopening plan. PEN America’s Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs, said the following:

“In the midst of a global pandemic, the stakes are literally life and death. Citizens rely on their local and state government to provide accurate and unbiased data so they may navigate these unprecedented times. Any attempt to manipulate or obfuscate the facts of the pandemic threatens not only the public’s right to transparency from their government, but also their very health and safety. If Jones was indeed fired for refusing to alter health data, that is both an act of retaliation and intimidation, signaling to other employees that it is in their interest to keep their concerns to themselves. At the end of the day, this creates a culture of fear and silence that files in the face of the fundamental rights we all have to access information.”


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892