Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN Friday he believes the virus that causes COVID-19 was accidentally released from a lab in Wuhan, China.
“Based on my experience as a virologist, I do not believe the virus could have been so contagious when it jumped directly from an animal to a person,” he said. He says he believes the virus was manipulated in a Wuhan research laboratory to become more contagious and then spread by a worker in September or October 2019, a few months before coming to public attention.
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker,” Redfield told CNN, adding, “that’s not implying any intentionality.”
The former CDC head, emphasized, that his belief in the Wuhan lab connection was simply his professional opinion. “Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out,” Redfield said, adding, “I’m allowed to have opinions now that I’m retired.”
Redfield’s belief is bolstered by other researchers whose findings and opinions have been reported by CBS News, USA Today and New York magazine.
In January, Nicholson Baker wrote article in New York positing that scientists at the Wuhan lab purposely created a hyper-virulent strain of a coronavirus as part of an anti-pandemic program.
“What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe,” Baker writes. “It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine.”
Wuhan houses two laboratories that study coronaviruses that originate in bats: the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control. It’s possible, Baker writes, that scientists studying a coronavirus that may have been genetically altered to make it more powerful did not disinfect themselves properly before leaving work.
An unnamed virologist told USA Today that workers at the Wuhan lab told him privately that safety precautions were lax at the facility and work on coronavirus research had been conducted in a “careless manner.”
Other scientists are skeptical of the the claim made by Redfield, Baker and others. Even after a month-long investigation into the virus’ origins in Wuhan, the World Health Organization concluded that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely” although some members of the WHO team complained that that the Chinese government denied them access to lab records.
Dr Anthony Fauci addressed the comments during the White House’s Covid-19 response news briefing last week, saying there were more likely explanations of the virus origin than having come from a laboratory.
“There’s a fundamental difference between having a theory and testing a theory and showing evidence that your theory is a fact,” said Paul Duprex, a virologist and director of the center for vaccine research at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think what he likely was expressing is that there certainly are possibilities … of how a virus adapts itself to an efficient spread among humans,” Fauci said.