Both U.S. political parties are now open to the idea that Covid may have come from a lab in China.
By German Lopez
A new House committee investigating the origins of Covid opened its first public hearing yesterday with plenty of political theater. Republicans accused Dr. Anthony Fauci of covering up the virus’s origins, and Democrats criticized those claims as biased and unsubstantiated. But lawmakers displayed bipartisan agreement on one point: The virus really may have come from a laboratory in China.
“Whether it was a lab leak or infection through animals, I think we’ve got to pursue both of those paths if we are ever to get the truth,” Representative Kweisi Mfume, Democrat of Maryland, said.
Such agreement might have been surprising not long ago. From the start of the pandemic, the idea of a lab leak was fraught. Some scientists treated it as an outright conspiracy theory. Many Democratic politicians, journalists and others instead embraced the explanation that the virus jumped from animals to humans.
Now, the F.B.I. and the Energy Department, which employ leading U.S. scientists, say a lab is the likely origin. But they remain uncertain, and four other U.S. intelligence agencies say, with low confidence, that it more likely originated in animals.
Link to article in The New York Times by German Lopez
and More on origins, and potential remedies. Contrasting perspectives even beyond the partisan political.
To the NYTimes Editor:
Re “Amid Politically Fraught Debate, a Split Persists on a Virus Origin” (news article, Feb. 28):
Instead of continuing to bicker about the origin of the Covid pandemic — a debate that is neither advancing our current understanding nor encouraging cooperation from the Chinese government — we should focus our attention on measures to ensure that future pandemics do not occur.
We do not need a consensus on Covid’s origins to take appropriate measures to both reduce human-wildlife contact leading to spillover events and mitigate the risks of research with dangerous pathogens that could result in lab leaks. The origins debate is distracting us from these more important tasks.
Ferric C. Fang
The writer is a professor of laboratory medicine, pathology and microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
House coronavirus panel urged to limit research
The world is still divided over what sparked the Covid-19 pandemic, but one former government official told a revamped House committee on the coronavirus he’s certain that gain-of-function research, in which pathogens are altered in a lab, is to blame rather than the coronavirus spreading from animals to people. “I think it’s caused the greatest pandemic we’ve ever seen,” said Robert Redfield, a virologist who was CDC director during the Trump administration.
Redfield urged a “moratorium” on gain-of-function research, arguing it has no value in preparing for infectious disease outbreaks. Democrats did not discount the possibility of an accidental lab leak, but instead steered the hearing toward increased laboratory oversight and early Trump administration missteps rather than research limits. Republicans pointed to former top infectious disease official Anthony Fauci, arguing that his agency funded risky gain-of-function research — which he has denied. STAT’s Sarah Owermohle has more on the fray.