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2020 Whistleblower of the Year Candidate – Rebekah Jones

Posted  December 28, 2020

We know her story all too well at this point.  Rebekah Jones is the geospatial scientist who designed and managed the COVID-19 tracking dashboard for Florida’s Department of Health.  This was the database reporting on the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Florida.  It was a model for other states to follow, widely praised for its clarity and accessibility, and even championed by former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx.

But according to Jones, the State fired her in May for refusing to manipulate the data to paint a rosier picture of what was really going on in the Sunshine State.  She says the powers that be were pushing for more positive-facing data to support the State’s reopening after months of quarantine.  It was not a plan she was willing to go along with, so the State removed her for what it claims was insubordination.

Jones was not deterred from what she sees as her mission to provide the most complete and accurate reporting of Florida COVID cases and deaths.  In June, she launched her own coronavirus website, called Florida COVID Action.  She used GoFundMe to support her work, and thousands of people responded, contributing more than $200,000.  She took her crusade one giant step further in August, partnering with Google and global nonprofit FinMango to build the COVID Monitor, a database to cover every school district in the country.

At the same time, she became a national whistleblower hero for standing up for truth and transparency, and for taking a stand against a state seen by many to epitomize a government gone rogue in playing politics over science in dealing with this deadly virus.  She not only filed a whistleblower retaliation case against the State in July, but also became a vocal critic of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, accusing him of minimizing the pandemic and manipulating the data the State has been reporting.

Jones’s following has only grown stronger in recent months as the number of coronavirus cases has surged.  Her celebrity perhaps reached a high point in early December when Florida police raided her home with guns ablaze, seizing her computer, flash drives, and phone.  The police acted with a search warrant, claiming they are investigating whether Jones improperly accessed a state messaging system without authorization to coax state officials into speaking out about coronavirus deaths.

Many, however, are viewing the raid as something much more nefarious, nothing but a Deep State effort to silence a whistleblower trying to bring truth to power.  That is the position Jones is taking in the lawsuit she filed against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, claiming the raid and seizure was a violation of her First Amendment and Due Process rights, among other things.

Jones also has used the raid and the retribution she feels she has been subjected to as a further platform to encourage others to stand up and be heard when they see something that rubs against their moral compass.  Especially when it comes to something that so broadly endangers our public welfare.  Here is what she wrote in her recent OpEd piece for the Miami Herald:

Attacking scientists and whistleblowers is as American as apple pie. . . .  But people’s refusal to be silenced is equally American.  To all the would-be whistleblowers considering coming forward, but who might be scared by the raid on my home:  Never let the fear of retaliation temper your desire to be a good, honest person.  I will continue to speak truth to power . . . .  The revelations about the state’s obstruction during this response will change our democracy forever.  Until then, I will be here, focusing on the data.

It remains to be seen how this all turns out for Rebekah Jones.  But in her quest for truth and transparency, her steely resolve and self-sacrifice, and her ultimate concern for the health and safety of all us, we nominate her for Constantine Cannon’s 2020 Whistleblower of the Year.


Vote here for the 2020 Whistleblower of the Year

Tagged in: COVID-19, Importance of Whistleblowers, Whistleblower of the Year,