Fired Florida data analyst Rebekah Jones bonds out of jail, says she tested positive for coronavirus
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Rebekah Jones, the former Florida Department of Health data analyst who helped build the state’s coronavirus case tracker — only to be fired last year for alleged insubordination — said she tested positive for the virus after turning herself in to authorities over the weekend.
Rebekah Jones surrendered to the Leon County detention facility on Sunday after law enforcement officials issued a warrant for her arrest on allegations that she illegally accessed a Florida Department of Health (FDOH) computer system.
“To protect my family from continued police violence, and to show that I’m ready to fight whatever they throw at me, I’m turning myself into police in Florida Sunday night,” she wrote on Twitter. “The Governor will not win his war on science and free speech. He will not silence those who speak out.”
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Jones was charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said.
She told reporters of her positive test after being released from jail Monday morning on $2,500 bond.
On Tuesday, Jones criticized Florida and its state contact tracers for not reaching out to her.
“Florida contact tracers still haven’t contacted me, even though I tested positive at the jail Sunday,” she wrote on Twitter. “Maryland contact tracers contacted my husband within an hour of getting our daughter tested, even with results pending. Florida fails us all every day.”
Florida authorities obtained the arrest warrant, which alleged that Jones, “was responsible for unauthorized access and several unauthorized access attempts to FDOH systems,” FOX 13 of Tampa Bay reported.
The FDLE said the investigation began Nov. 10 after the agency received a complaint from the Health Department that someone illegally accessed a state emergency-alert messaging system, known as ReadyOp. Agents said they found a message sent from Jones’s residence in Tallahassee.
They said that evidence retrieved from a search warrant Dec. 7 showed Jones illegally accessed the state system and sent a message to approximately 1,750 people. They also said she downloaded confidential Health Department data and saved it to her devices.
“It’s time to speak up before another 17,000 people are dead,” said a message, according to FOX 13. “You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
Jones said the arrest warrant was not related to last month’s raid.
“They didn’t find proof of anything related to the warrant, so they invented something new to come after me for in retaliation,” she tweeted.
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Jones, a data scientist, was fired from her role at the department of health in May. She has claimed that her dismissal was a result of her refusal to alter data related to coronavirus cases in the state.
Jones spoke out against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who denied that she was a “chief architect” of Florida’s coronavirus dashboard. The governor’s office said Jones was fired for insubordination.
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“Rebekah Jones exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the department’s COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors,” a representative for DeSantis told the Miami Herald at the time of her firing.
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