TAMPA (WFLA) — Florida’s former data scientist who turned herself in to authorities after a warrant was issued for her arrest says she tested positive for coronavirus while she was in jail.
Rebekah Jones turned herself in on Sunday night. She made her first appearance before a judge on Monday and was released about an hour later after posting her $2,500 bond.
After she was released, Jones did not have much to say about the charges against her but told reporters she tested positive for COVID-19 after entering the jail in Leon County.
“I just wanted to tell you guys to make sure you take care of your own health,” she said. “COVID is by no means over and we’re still going to be dealing with this virus for a lot longer.”
Jones is the data scientist who helped create and manage the state’s coronavirus dashboard. She was fired in May 2020 and said at the time she believed it was because she was too transparent. Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, called Jones “insubordinate.”
Jones’ home was raided last month by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents who were investigating “unauthorized access to a Department of Health messaging system.” The message that was being investigated, sent in November, urged recipients to “speak up before another 17,000 people are dead.”
“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 message said.
A statement released Monday by the FDLE said, “evidence retrieved from a search warrant on December 7 shows that Jones illegally accessed the system sending a message to approximately 1,750 people and downloaded confidential FDOH data and saved it to her devices.”
A warrant for her arrest was issued last week and Jones turned herself in to the Leon County Detention Center late Sunday night.
Jones has maintained her innocence, saying she didn’t even know a message was sent. She has since sued the FDLE, saying the agency “violated her rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments,” and “terrorized” her family by coming in with “guns drawn.”
After the raid, Jones said she moved her family to Washington, D.C. because she feared for the safety.
Since her dismissal, Jones has criticized Florida’s coronavirus response and even launched her own dashboard to track COVID-19 in schools.