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Florida COVID-19 Data Scientist Turns Herself In, 'The Orchid Thief,' Poetry At The Inauguration

Miami Herald
Richard Blanco at La Carreta restaurant in Miami.

Former Florida Department of Health whistle-blower has been released after turning herself in to state police. The Sundial Book Club's January pick — 'The Orchid Thief.' And Richard Blanco on what it means to be an inaugural poet.

On this Tuesday, Jan. 19, episode of Sundial:

Florida COVID-19 Data Scientist Turns Herself In

A former Florida Department of Health employee, who became a whistleblower during the coronavirus pandemic has been arrested and charged with a third-degree felony.

Rebekah Jones turned herself in to authorities over the weekend and was released Monday after posting $2,500 in bail.

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Jones was one of the architects of the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. She was fired from her position for insubordination and started her own COVID-19 site that was crowdfunded.

Back in December, her home was raided by law enforcement and her data was confiscated.

“If this was a case against someone who was much less prominent than Rebekah Jones, a third-degree felony would probably be pleaded down to a misdemeanor,” said Miami Herald reporter Lawrence Mower on Sundial. “But this is not a normal case. This is an extremely prominent person now in Florida and a DeSantis critic and it’s really hard to say what will happen with this case.”

She also announced that she recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Sundial spoke with Jones back in June 2020. Listen to that conversation here.

Florida COVID-19 Data Scientist Turns Herself In

"The Orchid Thief"

In the mid-'90s there was a story in the Miami Herald about a man who was on trial for poaching orchids in the Everglades.

That story inspired author Susan Orlean to write a piece in the New Yorker, which inspired her to write a book.

‘The Orchid Thief’ is the Sundial Book Club title for January.

Sundial spoke with Orlean about her journey to write that book. You can join the Sundial Book Club here.

'The Orchid Thief'
Dendrophylax lindenii

Poetry At The Inauguration

More people have been to the moon than have served as a presidential inaugural poet.

One of those six poets is Richard Blanco, who was President Obama's inaugural poet in 2013.

“The poem that I did read was a little more hopeful,” said Blanco on Sundial. “What I would write today might be a little more grittier and by that mean a little more aggressive.”

The White House asked him to write three poems for the event. He told Sundial about one of the poems that didn’t make the cut for that day.

“This is the poem I would read now because the last line of that poem is speaking to America and it says ‘listen we need to talk.’ The whole poem is this kind of analogy of how one’s relationship with one’s country is kind of like a marriage, it goes through all it’s phases and we’re at a critical phase now in that marriage,” he said.

Blanco is the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay person to continue the tradition that includes iconic poets like Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.

On Wednesday, that honor belonged to 22-year old Amanda Gorman. She became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. You can watch her read her poem from President Biden’s inauguration here.

Poetry At The Inauguration
Richard Blanco reads his poem "One Today" during President Obama's second inaugural, on Jan. 21.

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Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.