Ministry of Truth: Police raid home of Florida Covid-19 tracker creator who exposes real stats for the state

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Florida police have raided the home of data scientist Rebekah Jones, who built the state’s official Covid-19 database.

Ms Jones has accused the US Department of Health of manipulating virus data in order to relax pandemic restrictions.

She posted a series of videos of the raid on Twitter, in which armed officers seized her phone and laptop.

Florida’s law enforcement department said it was responding to a hack of the state’s emergency health alert system. Ms Jones denies any involvement.

Ms Jones was fired from her job at the Department of Health in May after making her accusations, and has since maintained her own database, independently tracking the spread of the virus.

At the time, a spokesperson for the department described her as “disruptive”.

In the hack, which is said to have taken place in early November, an unauthorised message was sent to members of the emergency response team urging them to “speak up” before thousands more people died from Covid-19. The message was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

In a statement, Florida Department of Law enforcement commissioner Rick Swearingen said an investigation found the hack had been carried out at Ms Jones’s address, and a search warrant had been obtained.

He denied her allegation that guns had been pointed at her children during the raid.

“Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analysed,” he said.

“At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home.”

‘New computer and a good lawyer’

Ms Jones has raised more than $65,500 (£49,000) in seven hours after setting up a fundraiser to help her with legal costs.

“Looks like I need a new computer and a hell of a good lawyer,” she wrote on the page.

In an interview with US news outlet Cuomo Prime Time, Ms Jones denied that she was sufficiently “tech savvy” to be a hacker and said she had not had access to any systems belonging to the Department of Health for more than six months.

She also said the phone which had been seized contained details about former colleagues who had shared information with her. Her husband’s and sons’ devices were not taken, she added.

Covid-19 in Florida

On 1 December, Florida became the third US state to record one million confirmed coronavirus infections, following Texas and California.

The following day there were 10,635 new cases, according to state data, but daily numbers had fallen to 7,575 by 6 December.

Despite the state’s high infection rate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has so far ruled out any further restrictions to try to contain the virus spread.

“No lockdowns. No fines. No school closures … that is totally off the table,” he said in a press briefing held at a school on 30 November.

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