The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that he believes the COVID-19 virus “escaped” from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, and that it happened as early as September or October 2019.
Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN Friday that it was his opinion that that is how the virus, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans, spread across the world. Redford was the director of the CDC under President Donald Trump.
“I’m of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathology in Wuhan was from a laboratory. Escaped. Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,” Redfield told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta.
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker. ... That’s not implying any intentionality. It’s my opinion, right? But I am a virologist. I have spent my life in virology,” he continued.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top COVID-19 adviser to Presidents Trump and Joe Biden, said he believes the virus was in circulation in the Wuhan area in late fall and early winter before it was recognized by any health official, and likely was not something that escaped from a laboratory.
“The issue that would have someone think it’s possible to have escaped from a lab would mean that it essentially entered the outside human population already well adapted to humans suggesting that it was adapted in a lab,” Fauci said during the White House COVID-19 briefing Friday.
“However, the alternative explanation, which most public health individuals go by, is that this virus was actually circulating in China, likely in Wuhan, for a month or more before they were clinically recognized at the end of December 2019.”
“If that were the case, the virus clearly could have adapted itself to a greater efficiency of transmissibility over that period of time, up to and at the time it was recognized,” Fauci said.
“So, Dr. Redfield was mentioning that he was giving an opinion as to a possibility, but again there are other alternatives — others that most people hold by,” he said.
A World Health Organization team that traveled to Wuhan searching for information on the virus said that it is “extremely unlikely” the virus came from a laboratory accident, and that it most likely jumped to humans via an intermediate species.
Critics of that report point out that the WHO team was not allowed to inspect some evidence concerning the first cases of the virus.
Redfield went on to defend his view that the virus was human-made by noting the virulent nature of the novel coronavirus.
“I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human and at that moment in time that the virus came to the human, became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human-to-human transmission,” he said.
The COVID-19 virus was first detected in Wuhan in December 2019, according to Chinese officials. Originally, Chinese researchers said that they believed that the virus had emerged at a wet market just under nine miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They have said they believe the virus originated in a bat and then spread to humans via some other animal.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is the only facility in China permitted to handle the most dangerous known pathogens, and is located less than nine miles from the wet market where researchers say the virus likely originated.
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