Congress is finally asking the right questions about COVID’s origins

Washington Examiner by Kaylee McGhee White

More than a year into this pandemic, congressional Republicans are finally asking the right questions: Why was the scientific community so quick to dismiss the theory that COVID-19 escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology? And why haven’t the U.S. officials involved in the lab’s research, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, been pressed about their relationship to it?

There are troubling connections between the United States and Wuhan that need to be examined if we’re to understand fully how this virus came about and spread across the globe. Thankfully, Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, is forcing his colleagues to start digging.

In a letter addressed to Fauci, Gallagher asked the White House medical adviser why the National Institutes of Health, at which Fauci is a top official, provided funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s “gain of function” research on various coronaviruses.

There are a couple of things to understand: “Gain of function” studies are typically conducted to enhance the transmissibility of potential pandemic pathogens. This isn’t abnormal or malicious. Such studies often allow scientists to understand better how contagious viruses spread, infect, and kill human beings.

We know Wuhan’s scientists were conducting this kind of research on various coronavirus strains. Dr. Shi Zhengli, the head of Wuhan’s coronavirus research project, admitted as much in multiple interviews. What this means is that it’s very likely the exact coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, that has now killed more than 3 million people was enhanced or even created in this lab, thanks in part to the U.S.’s funding.

Again, there is nothing unusual about this. There is, however, a serious problem with the way this research was conducted. Dr. Shi acknowledged that much of her work was conducted at a lower safety level than was required, which should have raised red flags all around, especially among U.S. scientists who knew better. In 2018, U.S. science diplomats did raise those red flags, telling the State Department that Wuhan’s lab lacked a good number of trained technicians and investigators needed to conduct research safely, which they argued posed a serious threat to the public health given the contagious nature of coronaviruses. Nothing was ever done to address these concerns, as far as we know.

That’s why Gallagher’s questions are important. If the NIH was funding dangerous research that was being conducted in a haphazard way and U.S. officials knew about it, that’s a problem. A big one.

The scientific community knows this, of course, which helps explain why many experts melt down completely when someone brings up the Wuhan Institute of Virology and its connection to COVID-19. Take, for example, Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York, the organization that received grants from the NIH to fund Wuhan’s coronavirus research. Daszak organized and drafted one of the first scientific letters dismissing the Wuhan lab-leak theory in February 2020 even though there was (and still is) no evidence disproving it. The reason for Daszak’s haste should be obvious: He was trying to get ahead of what could have been a major scandal for his organization if the lab-leak theory became mainstream.

A few months later, Daszak somehow wound up on the World Health Organization-China joint study team that further minimized the lab-leak theory while repeating the Chinese Communist Party’s half-hearted explanations as fact. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I refuse to believe any of this is a coincidence.

Gallagher doesn’t either, which is why he wants answers.

Read more at Washington Examiner

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