Florida coronavirus whistleblower whose home was raided says she knew Gov. DeSantis would come after her
Rebekah Jones, the whistleblower who exposed Florida’s manipulation of COVID data, spoke in a recent interview about a raid on her home
and said that she always knew that Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, would come after her.
On December 7, agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) came to her Tallahassee home with a search warrant while she and her husband were at home with their two young children.
Video footage of the incident shows an officer pulling out his gun while entering her home after she said that her children were inside. Although she believed that she would be arrested, she was not. Instead, officers confiscated her laptop and cell phone for what they claimed was a cybercrimes investigation.
Jones was the Florida Health Department data scientist who led the team creating the state's COVID dashboard in the early pandemic. She said that she was asked to leave her job in May be because she was unwilling to follow orders to manipulate Florida’s infection numbers; DeSantis has said that she was fired due to “insubordination.”
Following her firing, she filed a whistleblower complaint. She then went on to create a COVID dashboard of her own that is presumably more forthcoming using information that she has received from various sources.
She said in the interview that she thinks DeSantis went after her because of the complaint, which claimed that the state had been manipulating the coronavirus statistics and breaking the law.
Speaking on The Daily Beast
’s "The New Abnormal" podcast, she said: “'I thought back in May or June, when I first launched the new dashboard, that DeSantis would send people to come get me."
Jones said she has been under investigation since a November incident in which someone hacked into Florida’s emergency health alert system and sent a message from it. She says she had no involvement in the incident. She now believes that she was targeted in the raid and the authorities took her phone and computer to try to determine who within the Department of Health had been passing information to her.
Although DeSantis's office has denied having any knowledge of the raid on Jones's home before it happened and said that the governor was not involved in the investigation, Jones is skeptical. Not only does the FDLE report to DeSantis's office, but the search warrant was the first one signed by newly sworn Judge Joshua Hawkes, who was the most recent DeSantis employee to be assigned to the family court.
She also told The Daily Beast that the state continues to under-report coronavirus hospitalizations as well as deaths and has even been deleting some deaths from its tracker, including children.
"When I drew attention to the fact that a 2-year-old died in Escambia County, in Florida, less than two weeks after he was diagnosed and hospitalized for it, they reported him as a death," she said.
"And as soon as I tweeted about it, and there was a big press reaction, they deleted it. They actually changed his dead status from yes to no."
Jones vows to continue to speak the truth
Jones has been trying to raise awareness about the number of new COVID-19 cases in grade school students and teachers; DeSantis favors in-person classes during the pandemic.
In an op-ed in the Miami Herald
, Jones vowed to continue to speak the truth. She wrote: “But people’s refusal to be silenced is equally American. To all the would-be whistleblowers considering coming forward, but who might be scared by the raid on my home: Never let the fear of retaliation temper your desire to be a good, honest person.”
She’s not the only person who claims the state has been trying to cover up COVID data
. A report by the Sun Sentinel
detailed how the DeSantis administration tried to mislead the public about coronavirus, including telling health department spokespeople not to talk about the pandemic
until after the presidential election.
Sources for this article include: