Why Was Rebekah Jones Fired From the Florida Department of Health?

Shannon Raphael - Author

Dec. 8 2020, Updated 11:32 a.m. ET

Source: Twitter

Since geographic data scientist Rebekah Jones was fired from the Florida Department of Health in 2020, she has spoken out at length on Twitter and on news shows about her criticisms of how the state and Governor Ron DeSantis are handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Rebekah was hired to be a Geographic Information System analyst for the Florida Department of Health in Tallahassee in November of 2019, and she maintained the post until May of 2020. 

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Her team was tasked with creating a data dashboard to comprehensively display the number of cases, deaths, and testing locations in the state of Florida. 

While Rebekah views herself as a whistleblower who is combatting state censorship, state records indicate a different story.

Why was Rebekah Jones fired? Keep reading to find out what she said about her release from her job and what the state has revealed about it.

Source: Twitter
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Why was Rebekah Jones fired?

When the coronavirus began to actively spread in the United States in the spring of 2020, geographic data scientist Rebekah Jones led a team at the Florida Department of Health to create a dashboard of data. This team, which was comprised of data scientists and health officials, assembled the dashboard with data regarding the spread of the deadly virus in the state.

The portal, which was made available to the public, allowed people to easily stay updated on the number of cases, deaths, and information regarding testing.

According to Florida Today, in the weeks leading up to Rebekah's ultimate firing, the site encountered issues with loading, and some information would be missing.

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The scientist was officially fired from Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard on May 5, 2020. 

After Rebekah was released from her position, she went public with her concerns regarding the state's handling of the coronavirus. 

Rebekah sent an email to data users about her firing 10 days later, on May 15, 2020. The correspondence expressed her worries regarding the state's openness to sharing her data portal to the public. 

Source: Twitter
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In the email, per Florida Today, Rebekah said that she was let go for "reasons beyond my division's control," and that her office was not in charge of the dashboard anymore.

She also shared that, because she wasn't part of the project anymore, she was unsure what information was being restricted from public view. 

"As a word of caution, I would not expect the new team to continue the same level of accessibility and transparency that I made central to the process during the first two months," she wrote, per Florida Today. "After all, my commitment to both is largely (arguably entirely) the reason I am no longer managing it."

Upon learning of Rebekah's firing, many members of the public expressed concern over what it meant for the transparency of the portal. 

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She later accused the Florida Department of Health of asking her to slant her data to go along with the state's goal and action plan to reopen the state. She claimed that this was one of the main reasons why she was fired. State records indicated that she was released for violating policy by publicly making comments about the data. 

Several warnings had been issued to Rebekah prior to her firing.  

Source: Twitter
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In the months since Rebekah was fired, the 31-year-old has done interviews on CNN, NPR, CBS Miami, and she's been profiled as a pandemic expert by major outlets including Time, Medium, and The Washington Post. 

Rebekah Jones' house was raided in December of 2020.

On Dec. 7, 2020, a search warrant was executed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to search Rebekah Jones' home. The goal of the raid was to determine whether Rebekah used a state government messaging system without permission in November of 2020. If she had, she could have encouraged current employees to speak out about the deaths caused by the virus. 

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According to the affidavit, the message encouraged employees to speak out before "another 17,000 people are dead." The message was traced to Rebekah's home, per the statement.

Rebekah herself told CNN that she officially lost access to the messaging service when she was fired. She denied sending the message in question.

On Twitter, Rebekah posted a video of the raid, which was taken on a home security camera. She claimed that the officers had guns drawn, and that it affected her two kids. 

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Gretl Plessinger, the department's spokesperson, told CNN that the agents knocked on Rebekah's door for 20 minutes to no avail. She said that Rebekah's family members were actually upstairs when the agents did ultimately enter the home. 

In her Twitter thread about the search, Rebekah accused the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, of being behind the raid. 

The governor did not explicitly comment on the Dec. 7 raid, but he had previously spoken out about Rebekah's history of "insubordination," and he shared that he believed that she should have been fired sooner. 

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