A week after having her Florida home raided by police, former health department data scientist and coronavirus whistleblower Rebekah Jones said that she had been waiting for state Gov. Ron DeSantis to ‘send people to come get me’ for months.
On December 7, agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement carried out a search warrant on 30-year-old Jones’ Tallahassee home, while she, her husband their two young children were inside.
‘I thought back in May or June, when I first launched the new dashboard, that DeSantis would send people to come get me,’ Jones told the Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal podcast.
Jones was a state health department data scientist credited with leading a team in the creation Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard early on in the pandemic, before she was fired.
She claims that she was asked to leave in May because she refused to manipulate the state’s infection numbers.
DeSantis has said she was fired because of ‘insubordination.’
Former Florida health department data scientist Rebekah Jones (pictured) said she expected Gov. DeSantis would send someone to ‘get’ her after she was fired
Jones (left) filed a whistleblower complaint after she claimed she was fired for refusing to manipulate coronavirus data. DeSantis (right) said it was over ‘insubordination’
After her firing, Jones filed a whistleblower complaint and created her own COVID-19 dashboard, using information she receives from sources.
She told the Daily Beast that she believed that the reason why DeSantis would send people to ‘come and get’ her was because of the complaint she filed, which claimed that the state was manipulating its coronavirus statistics, breaking the law and asking her to break the law as well.
Video from December 7 raid on her house shows at least one officer pulled out his gun while entering Jones’ home, after she opened the door and told them that her children were inside.
Jones told the Daily Beast that she was ‘prepared to be arrested’ and that she felt ‘nothing’ when a gun was near her face, despite having always assumed that it would be a terrifying experience.
Jones is pictured in bodycam footage from December 7, when police executed a search warrant at her home, during a cyber crime investigation
Jones (right) was at home with her two young children and husband (left) at the time. She was’t arrested, but police confiscated her laptop and cell phone
But, rather than being arrested, officers confiscated her cell phone and laptop as part of what they said was a cyber crimes investigation.
Jones has been under investigation since November, when someone illegally hacked Florida’s emergency alert health system and sent a message from it. She has denied involvement in the incident.
Jones has expressed skepticism about DeSantis’ office’s claims that he was not involved in the raid on her house, noting that the judge who signed the warrant, Joshua Hawkes (pictured), was sworn in by DeSantis in November
Jones said that after being left alone for nearly half a year since her firing and starting up her own coronavirus dashboard, she thought she was just being ignored.
In the wake of the raid, however, she believes that she was targeted, and she suspects authorities took her computer and phone as part of the effort to figure out who in the department of health has been giving her information.
‘They’re purging everybody who’s disloyal’, she said.
DeSantis’ office told the Tallahassee Democrat that the governor didn’t know about the raid on Jones’ house before it happened and that he hadn’t been involved in the investigation into her.
Jones is skeptical about that, as she notes that the FDLE supposedly reports in to DeSantis’ office and the search warrant was reported to be the first search warrant that Judge Joshua Hawkes – who was sworn in in November – had ever signed.
‘I don’t personally know the man, I’m not a connected person, but to be the most recent [Florida governor Ron] Desantis employee assigned to family court, and to have this be the first thing that you sign off on, I think that speaks for itself,’ Rebekah Jones told CNN.
She told Daily Beast that she didn’t think she was the ‘main target’ of the raid, but that ‘harassing me and taking all my gear was just an added benefit to that.’
Jones claimed in the interview that the state is continuing to under report both coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths and allegedly going to far as to delete some deaths from their tracker.
She said: ‘They’ve deleted people, [from the 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.
‘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.’
Since the raid, Jones has been focusing on sharing the message about the number of new coronavirus cases being reported amongst kindergarten to 12th grade students, teachers and other school workers.
The information she is using to build the school-related coronavirus dashboard comes from anonymous sources, which she is determined to protect. The regular dashboard information comes from public sources.
DeSantis has been in favor of students returning to in-person classes during the pandemic.