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Creator of Florida's coronavirus dashboard ousted

The designer of Florida’s data dashboard tracking the spread of COVID-19 said she was removed from her position earlier this month after refusing to manually alter data in order to drive support for opening the state’s economy. Rebekah Jones, a geographic information systems manager for the Florida Department of Health, was dismissed from the dashboard team May 5, according to an email she sent to her colleagues last Friday. In the message, she wrote that "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." Florida's dashboard was praised last month by Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, as a thorough and granular look at the deadly disease's course. More on this to come.

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Coronavirus is a 'test run' for future crises

The coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to shift virtually every aspect of their lives, including work, school and health care. But Philadelphia smart city director Emily Yates said the COVID-19 pandemic is also an opportunity to measure how resilient cities are and gauge their readiness for future crises. “How can we be better prepared for situations like this in the future? I think this is a test-run for climate change and some of the impacts it might have on our communities,” Yates said during a webinar last week. So far, Yates said, the pandemic has revealed a citywide shortage of basic technology, like laptops, both for remote government workers and K-12 students who need to complete homework online. Ryan Johnston has more.

As economies reopen, demands on state IT begin to flatten

State IT officials’ services have been in high demand in recent months, largely in response to the unprecedented strains on unemployment insurance systems stemming from 35 million job losses since mid-March. But as the spread of COVID-19 appears to be waning and states allow more of their economies to reopen, the number of new projects technology officials are being asked to implement is declining, too. “There’s discussion around what we think the new normal would be,” said Ohio Deputy Chief Information Officer Katrina Flory. “For the surge for IT, I think we’re flattening the curve there as well.”   Colin Wood reports.

Texas transportation department hit in ransomware attack

The Texas Department of Transportation last week disclosed that it suffered a ransomware attack, though details of the incident are scant. In a notice posted to Facebook and other other social media, the agency said it detected “unauthorized access” on its network that was revealed to be ransomware. Officials have not disclosed what type of ransomware was used in the incident, what demand the attackers made or even what services, if any, were impacted. But as of Monday, TxDOT's main website was not responsive, while a separate site that houses footage from highway traffic cameras alerted users it had not updated since last Thursday afternoon. Benjamin Freed reports.


Meeting a crisis head-on by refocusing IT service priorities

Because of the massive shift to telework, IT administrators have a window of opportunity to gain wider buy-in for simpler, more adaptable solutions that meet agency needs. Steve McMahon, interim CIO at Splunk, can relate to what agency IT departments are going through. He shares some of the steps his organization had to take to adapt to a new operating environment — and suggests strategies that IT departments can use to address the expanded set of security risks.   Listen here for more.

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