Rebekah Jones, a former Department of Health data expert and critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis, has tested positive for COVID-19.
The embattled activist for a stricter coronavirus response tested positive Sunday when she was booked into the Leon County Detention Facility. She surrendered to state police that day for charges related to a breach of confidential Department of Health employee data.
In May, DOH fired her for being “insubordinate,” but Jones contends she was fired after refusing to falsify coronavirus data on the state’s dashboard. Since then, she has created her own dashboards and founded the COVID Monitor to track public school cases.
Jones tweeted an update Tuesday morning to her supporters, telling them she would be isolating until she is safe to return home.
“Once I’m lucid again, remind me to thank everyone for their amazing support,” she said. “COVID is not a joke. I’ve never been so sick in my life.”
Jones alerted reporters to her positive test Monday as she left the jail after posting $2,500 bail.
“I just wanted to tell you guys to make sure you take care of your own health,” she told reporters upon her release. “COVID is, by no means, over, and we’re still going to be dealing with this virus for a lot longer.”
After the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Tallahassee Police Department raided her home in December, Jones moved to Washington, D.C.
Over the course of two days, she drove to Tallahassee despite “coughing constantly” and “being seriously ill,” her attorney told the Florida Phoenix. FDLE officials insisted she had to be in jail by Sunday night.
In the December search warrant, officials accused Jones of illegally accessing a DOH communications system in November and blasting a text to emergency responders urging recipients to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.” DOH estimates that 1,750 messages were sent before software vendors with ReadyOp, who designed the system, were able to cancel the distribution.
“You know this is wrong. You don’t have to be a part of this. Be a hero. Speak out before it’s too late,” the Nov. 10 message continued.
The warrant for Jones’ arrest alleges that her computer, seized during the Dec. 9 raid, had documents with contacts for people on DOH’s emergency network. She faces a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Jones denies having illegally accessed the system. The state’s allegations against her are an attempt to silence her and intimidate potential whistleblowers, she says.
“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,” Jones tweeted.
Jones received and downloaded the documents from state sources, according to the state’s charges. FDLE found no evidence of her sending the Nov. 10 message, Jones added.
A criminal complaint since made public confirms the Tallahassee Police Department seized a desktop computer from Jones’ home after obtaining a search warrant on Dec. 7. Jones released video she recorded in the home of the raid.
Jones indicated to police she was the only person in the home who used the HP computer that was seized, the complaint states.
Internet activity from her computer “proved that Rebekah Jones was responsible for unauthorized access and several unauthorized access attempts to FDOH systems,” according to the state. “The evidence further proves that during the unauthorized access, Jones exfiltrated FDOH intellectual property.”
According to Stephen Dobson, the Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who represents Jones, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper denied the state’s request for a blanket computer ban during an appearance Monday morning.
Dobson told The News Service of Florida that Cooper also rejected the state’s request for GPS monitoring of Jones, but the judge sided with the state and prohibited Jones from accessing the state Department of Health website.
Before her tweet Tuesday, Jones had not tweeted since Sunday afternoon, the day after posting a thread saying her release could be contingent on not accessing the computer, the internet or electronic devices.
“Censored by the state of Florida until further notice,” she tweeted, adding the hashtag “#LetHerSpeak.”