Ex-CDC director received death threats after saying he believed COVID-19 originated in a lab

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The former director of the Centers for Disease Control received death threats from fellow scientists after saying in a TV interview that he believed COVID-19 originated in a lab, according to an interview released Thursday.

Robert Redfield, who was the CDC director under Donald Trump when the pandemic began, told CNN on March 26 that he thought the most likely “etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan came from a lab — you know, escaped.”

He said he wasn’t insinuating malicious intent, but that was his opinion.

After that 10-second sound bite, he said: Vanity Fair he was “threatened and banned for proposing a different hypothesis.” At the time, the Wuhan lab leak was widely regarded as a “fringe theory” at best, in favor of animal-to-human transmission.

The Vanity Fair article stated that “death threats flooded his inbox” from strangers who said he was racist against prominent scientists, even some he considered friends. One of them said he should “wither and die,” Vanity Fair reported.

‘I expected it from politicians. I didn’t expect it from science,” Redfield said.

Robert Redfield, who was the CDC director under Donald Trump when the pandemic began, said on CNN that he thought the most likely

Robert Redfield, who was the CDC director under Donald Trump when the pandemic began, said on CNN that he thought the most likely “etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan came from a lab, you know, escaped.”

The idea that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan was a 'fringe theory' at best until recently, when the Biden administration ordered a review

The idea that the coronavirus escaped from a lab in Wuhan was a ‘fringe theory’ at best until recently, when the Biden administration ordered a review

Stephen Goldstein, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Utah, wrote an op-ed about: webpage today on April 5, tear down Redfield’s claims on CNN.

“There will no doubt remain questions about the origin of SARS-CoV-2 until, and if, a definitive answer is discovered (and perhaps after),” Goldstein wrote. Until then, it is imperative that leaders in science, public health and government continue to advocate for thorough study and adhere to the science of viral evolution and viral ecology in their public commentary.

“One of the fundamental principles of a life in science is to admit what you don’t know, and never be afraid to look it up. Redfield falls short there, unfortunately on a big stage.’

The comments he made to Vanity Fair were published as part of a months-long investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which included interviews with more than 40 people and a review of hundreds of pages of U.S. government documents (including internal memos, minutes and emails). ).

The magazine outlined the first moments when Redfield learned about a mysterious new pneumonia afflicting people in a Wuhan market on January 3, 2020 from Dr. George Fu Gao, head of China’s CDC.

Redfield told Vanity Fair that he thought it was strange that family clusters got sick, and Gao later told Redfield that many cases had nothing to do with the market.

Then it became clear that the virus was jumping from person to person, and Redfield told Vanity Fair that he immediately thought of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

He wanted to send investigators to the facility to rule it out, but the Chinese wouldn’t allow it, Vanity Fair reported.

“A team could rule it out as a source of the outbreak in a matter of weeks by testing researchers there for antibodies,” said Vanity Fair.

Redfield’s two-year tenure as CDC director ended when the new government took over, but the debate over the origins of the coronavirus flared up last week.

dr.  Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 16, 2020

dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testifies during a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 16, 2020

On May 28, President Joe Biden said his administration is joining other countries to pressure China to be more open about the outbreak. He ordered intelligence officials to “double down” efforts to determine the origin of COVID-19 and report back within 90 days. U.S. national labs were tasked with assisting in the investigation.

China, meanwhile, insists the virus simply mutated and passed naturally from animals to humans from a Wuhan market.

The two main competing theories of origin — bat-to-human or laboratory escape — have resurfaced since The Washington Post and Buzzfeed received emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci published.

Fauci on Thursday doubled down on his belief that the virus came from a bat in the Wuhan market, but left the door open to the possibility of a lab escape.

ORIGIN OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES

US state officials have given impetus to the idea that COVID-19 was either leaked from a lab or created by China as some sort of weapon against humanity.

It was first thought that a wet market in Wuhan was the breeding ground of the virus, where the sale of live, wild animals would have provided the perfect opportunity for the virus to spread naturally between species.

It is thought that the virus first developed in bats before being passed on to a creature such as a pangolin who then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.

Once it got into humans, it probably mutated to survive and then got out of control due to an unprepared population.

There are also theories that the virus was genetically manipulated by scientists, or that it has been around for years and has even killed people in the past.

Two high-security labs in the city — the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology — have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.

President Donald Trump claims he’s seen evidence that the virus, which he blames only on China, comes from the Wuhan Institute of Virology — but he’s not allowed to reveal it.

The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.

In April, Trump said, “We are conducting a very thorough investigation into this terrible situation that has occurred.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed in May that there is “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese lab – but has provided none of the alleged evidence.

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