Editor’s note: More than a year after the pandemic started, Americans are still sifting through facts and conspiracy theories to understand just what happened. This series goes back to the beginning of COVID-19 and brings us up to date on our unprecedented odyssey through politics, infectious disease, public health mandates, and societal shutdown. Part 1 shows how a theory about the origins of coronavirus has come full circle, starting with declarations that it came from a lab, which were soundly debunked, and now gaining adherents.
Has there ever been a bigger cluster of confusion in modern history than the facts and expert advice surrounding the coronavirus? You don’t need to wear a mask; you have to wear one. No need to alter daily routines; time to lock down the nation. Asymptomatic people do not spread the virus; everyone is contagious. Discovering where COVID originated is also a chaotic journey that has us coming full circle, suspecting what former President Donald Trump suggested more than a year ago: It escaped from the Wuhan lab in China. Liberty Nation believed that a timeline of theories and events might help clear up the muddied waters and provide more insight as to what started and contributed to spread of the deadly SARS-CoV-2 for more than a year.
Blame the Bats
Most experts agree that SARS-CoV-2 originated in bats. That hasn’t been much disputed. In March 2020, LN’s Andrew Moran discussed the theory that the virus was contracted through the wet market in Wuhan, China. At that time, Moran reported, “Of the initial 41 people hospitalized, two-thirds had contact with this place.” Seemed like a logical conclusion – except that bats were not sold during that timeframe.
While it is possible that COVID could have been spread through pangolins, which were being sold then, some scientists were skeptical. When Trump suggested the virus came directly from the lab, he was criticized mightily. It would take a year, and the start of a new administration, before America accepted this conspiracy theory might not be so far off base.
Wuhan Lab, Bats, and the Coronavirus
Wuhan houses one of the world’s largest collection of bats and bat-virus strains. During the 2002 outbreak of SARS-CoV that killed 774 people and sickened more than 8,000 globally, Shi Zhengli was one of the first to identify horseshoe bats as the natural reservoirs. Zhengli is the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) lead coronavirus researcher. Because of her studies, she became known as the “Bat Woman.”
Zhengli and her colleagues started performing experiments that made pathogens more infectious. This type of controversial research is known as “gain-of-function” and also the topic of focus in Dr. Anthony Fauci’s emails, recently made public, and whether he helped to fund it.
The WIV has numerous laboratories that work on the coronavirus, but only one has a high biosafety protocol, according to Giles Demaneuf, a data scientist with the Bank of New Zealand in Auckland. In BSL-4, researchers are required to wear full-body pressurized suits that have independent oxygen. However, the others are designated as BSL-3 and BLS-2, reportedly only as secure as an American dentist’s office.
Understandably, the WIV’s background and bat history could lead people to speculate the virus escaped from the lab rather than from a wet market. But, before that theory could gain much traction, one of the most influential and respected medical journals in the world, The Lancet, published a statement on Feb. 19, 2020, that essentially shut down any investigation into this line of inquiry.
The publication, signed by 27 scientists, voiced “solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China.” It also stated: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”
Demaneuf said the statement was as if it had been “nailed to the church doors.” He added, “Everyone had to follow it. Everyone was intimidated. That set the tone.”
In Part 2, how did government research and fear of rocking the boat affect the investigation into the origins of COVID?
Read more from Kelli Ballard.