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Rebekah Jones, the Florida data scientist embroiled in an on-going dispute with the state’s Republican governor over the handling of coronavirus figures, had her home raided on Monday by armed police who confiscated her computers.
In a stream of posts on Twitter, Jones posted a video of the raid which showed state police carrying handguns escorting her out of her Tallahassee home. She can be heard saying: “He just pointed a gun at my children,” with her husband and two children apparently upstairs in the house at the time.
Jones claimed in her tweets that the raid was the work of Ron DeSantis, the governor with whom she has clashed repeatedly since she was fired by the state’s department of health in May in a row over Covid-19 data. She compared the incident to sending “the gestapo”, adding: “This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed they had entered Jones’s house on a search warrant. But in a statement the department said the action was related to a recent computer hack of the health department website in which emergency response coordinators were sent an unathorised message.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the message urged the coordinators to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead. You know this is wrong. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late.”
Jones was dismissed from her job running Florida’s Covid-19 database on the same day that DeSantis ordered the opening up of the state following lockdown measures. The decision to allow beaches, restaurants, cinemas and other public places to reopen was blamed for a later surge in cases of infection.
Jones said she was removed from the post because she had resisted efforts to censor the data she was presenting on the state’s official coronavirus site. Since her ousting, she has compiled her own daily tally of coronavirus cases in Florida that is more detailed than the state’s own database which she has recently expanded to include information on cases in schools nationwide.
In an interview with the Guardian in August, she said: “They’re not listening to the scientists, they’ve no plan to release data, they’re just going to let everybody fend for themselves.”
Referring to the official line that she was dismissed for insubordination, she said: “If I was insubordinate to say I’m not going to manipulate data, to say it’s safe to reopen when it’s not, then, yes, I wear insubordination as a badge of honor.”
DeSantis has followed a similar maverick approach to the pandemic as Donald Trump. Like the US president, the Florida governor has claimed success in his handling of the disease even when the statistics have screamed otherwise.
On Monday, the state’s own official data recorded 7,711 new cases of Covid-19. The state has now endured 1,065,785 instances of infection – the highest number in the country other than California and Texas.
Some 19,282 Floridians have died.
Describing the Monday morning raid at her home, Jones said that police confiscated the phone and computer she uses to post daily case numbers in Florida. She claimed that in the process, the officers “took evidence of corruption at the state level” – without explaining what she meant.
In a defiant note, she said that the police action would not silence her. “I’ll have a new computer tomorrow. And then I’m going to get back to work.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Armed police raid home of Florida scientist fired over Covid-19 data | Florida