The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says he believes that the coronavirus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, despite claims from the World Health Organization to the contrary.
Dr. Robert Redfield, who directed the CDC from 2018 to the beginning of 2021 and was on the front lines of the Trump administration’s efforts to deal with the beginning of the pandemic, made his comments in an interview with CNN that aired Friday.
“If I was to guess, this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October in Wuhan,” he told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
The virus was not reported to the world until early January 2020 and the first case appeared in the U.S. on Jan. 21, 2020.
Redfield noted in the interview that he was speaking for himself.
“That’s my own view. And it’s only opinion. You know, I’m allowed to have opinions now,” he said, having been replaced as part of the Biden administration’s housecleaning of Trump appointees.
“I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory — you know, escaped,” he said.
“Other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out.”
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in a laboratory to infect the laboratory worker,” he said.
“That’s not implying any intentionality,” Redfield said. “It’s my opinion, right? But I am a virologist. I have spent my life in virology.”
Redfield said the actions of the virus and the tale told of its origins do not align.
“I do not believe this somehow came from a bat to a human and at that moment in time, the virus that came to the human, became one of the most infectious viruses that we know in humanity for human-to-human transmission,” he said.
Usually, when a virus leaps from animals to humans, Redfield explained “it takes a while for it to figure out how to become more and more efficient in human-to-human transmission.”
“I just don’t think this makes biological sense,” he said.
Redfield said that it does make sound sense, however, that the lab in Wuhan that does research on viruses was working on one that later escaped.
“Yeah, let’s just say, I have coronavirus and I’m working on it. Most of us in the lab are trying to grow a virus. We try to help make it grow better and better … so we can do experiments and figure out about it. That’s the way I put it together,” he said.
White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, said Redfield “was just expressing an opinion” about the possible origins of the virus, according to Politico.
“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.
“One of them is in the lab. And one of them — which is the more likely, which most public health officials agree with — is that it likely was below the radar screen, spreading in the community in China for several weeks, if not a month or more, which allowed it when it got recognized clinically to be pretty well-adapted,” he said.
Peter Ben Embarek, who led the team, said that somehow the virus was transmitted from bats to humans long before the virus was first noted in December.
“Our initial findings suggest that the introduction through an intermediary host species is the most likely pathway and one that will require more studies and more specific targeted research,” Embarek said at a news conference.
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