Police Raid Home Of Former Florida COVID-19 Data Scientist

by Cassandra Stone
Rebekah Jones/Twitter

Rebekah Jones is a former coronavirus data scientist who has accused Florida officials of covering up COVID data

On Monday, Florida police raided the home of Rebekah Jones, a former state coronavirus data scientist, seizing her computer, phone, and other hardware after she was fired back in May for accusing state officials of covering up the extent of the pandemic by manipulating numbers.

Armed with guns and a search warrant, police seized her computer, her phone and other hardware that supports the coronavirus website she created after she was fired. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating whether Jones used her devices to hack into the health department website in November to send unauthorized messages to Florida emergency workers, urging them to speak out against the state’s response to the pandemic.

Jones denies she did. Yesterday, she shared a series of terrifying tweets describing the moments after police barged into her home with guns: “They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids.”

Jones told CNN that she did not access any state messaging system because she lost access to all government computer accounts after she was let go from her job. She said in all, about 10 armed officers burst into her home, regardless of the fact that her two-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son were home.

Jones and state officials have been going back and forth since her dismissal in May. Jones said she refused to comply with agency requests that she deemed to be unethical, and also accused the state of Florida of mismanaging the health crisis. Over the summer, Florida had one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases and deaths in the country.

After she was fired, Jones launched her own data portal, which she maintains is a transparent and independent alternative to the state’s publicly available coronavirus information dashboard. Now she says the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s raid is an attempt to stop her work.

According to an affidavit filed by state police, law enforcement traced a breach of health department information to Jones, who was the agency’s former geographic information systems manager.

In the video she shared on Twitter, Jones can be heard yelling, “Do not point that gun at my children.”

Jones has been outspoken in her criticism of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, alleging that her former managers instructed her to falsify virus case data to downplay the risk of infection and death in the state.

“This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly,” Jones wrote. “This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”