'Insufficient evidence' of Florida COVID-19 cover-up, says inspector general
Claims by a former Florida Department of Health employee that officials told her to misrepresent the state’s COVID-19 numbers online were “unsubstantiated” and “unfounded,” according to a new state inspector general’s report, ending Rebekah Jones’ “whistleblower” status she was granted last year
May 30, 2022 2:29pm
Updated: May 30, 2022 6:44pm
Claims by a former Florida Department of Health employee that officials told her to misrepresent the state’s COVID-19 numbers online were “unsubstantiated” and “unfounded,” according to a new state inspector general’s report, ending Rebekah Jones’ “whistleblower” status she was granted last year.
A copy of the 27-page report from the Florida Department of Health’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) was obtained by NBC, who reported and published it on Thursday.
The OIG report found “insufficient” or no evidence to support Jones’ accusations she was asked to falsify or misrepresent COVID-19 positivity rates on the state’s online dashboard, which she helped develop.
The report also “exonerated” public health officials who Jones had accused of removing data from public access, finding that the removed section helped protect private individual health information.
Jones was widely hailed as a whistleblower when she declared she had been fired from the Department of Health for refusing to doctor Florida’s COVID numbers as Gov. Ron DeSantis tried to reopen the state. She was arrested in Jan. 2021 for allegedly hacking and downloading confidential data from the state’s systems.
She came under scrutiny for inconsistent statements regarding the incident, flip-flopping on claims Florida intentionally hid deaths to make the pandemic seem less deadly until she was banned from Twitter for violating its terms of service.
It was also revealed Jones had prior criminal charges, the most recent involving her allegedly stalking a previous romantic partner.
The OIG formally granted her whistleblower protections in May 2021 while it conducted its investigation and has now found no evidence for her claims of wrongful termination.
Jones’ lawyer told NBC News that his client is still a “whistleblower” and that she will press her claim of wrongful termination in court.
The former whistleblower is set to challenge Rep. Matt Gaet, a close Trump ally, to represent Florida’s 1st District in Congress as a Democrat.