We are coming up on the three-year anniversary of the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown in the United States. It was almost three years ago that all of our lives changed, some more drastically than others. In those initial days of schools going remote, parents setting up home offices, teachers learning how to navigate a video conference website called Zoom, and families stocking up on snacks and toilet paper, everyone with access to the internet was trying to learn what in the world SARS-CoV-2 was. The date for when things would be back to normal kept getting pushed further and further into the future while the numbers of Covid cases and death tolls rose. The economy and mental health took hit after hit, and with every subsequent variant, Covid cemented itself as a major historical time stamp.
As communities around the world worked together to endure the effects of the pandemic, one question remained looming on everyone’s minds: where did this virus come from? Yes, we knew it came from China and early Chinese reports stated that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was to blame. But no animal host was ever found, thus prompting many to speculate whether the fish market story was true, including former US President, Donald Trump. Rather, they asserted that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which had been conducting gain-of-function research at the time of the outbreak. This particular gain-of-function research involved enhancing the biological potential of a virus. Most mainstream media outlets as well as former National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, dismissed the theory as just a conspiracy. Posts about the lab leak theory were even flagged and removed by social media outlets, including Twitter. Dr. Fauci had also been questioned on multiple occasions in front of Congress regarding the NIH’s donations to the Wuhan Lab and how this created a major conflict of interest in Dr. Fauci’s role as Chief Medical Advisor to POTUS and as the head of the coronavirus response effort.
Now that most pandemic precautions have been lifted, symptom severity has declined, and President Biden plans to announce the end of Covid-19 national and public health emergencies on May 11th, the question regarding covid’s origin has been thrust back into the spotlight. Yesterday, February 26th, the Wall Street Journal published breaking news that the U.S. Energy Department “concluded that the Covid pandemic most likely arose from a laboratory leak, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and key members of Congress.”
The lab leak theory arose from, as the WSJ states, “U.S. intelligence that three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care…some former U.S. officials say the sick researchers were involved in coronavirus research.” The FBI has not yet made this information available to the public as the investigation is still underway.
Not all US intelligence agencies are on the same page. While the Energy Department and FBI say the virus spread from an accidental laboratory leak, four other agencies still believe the natural transmission explanation with “low confidence” and two agencies, including the CIA, remain undecided. Although the Energy Department and FBI make their statements with “low” and “moderate” confidence respectively, their words are being taken very seriously. The Energy Department is an agency known for its scientific expertise and it oversees U.S. national laboratories, some of which conduct advanced biological research. The FBI also has its own congregation of scientists who specialize in viral pathogens and are backed by the National Bioforensic Analysis Center.
Although there is no strong consensus amongst the intelligence agencies as to whether the virus originated via natural transmission or laboratory leak, the WSJ states that all agencies believe “Covid-19 wasn’t the result of a Chinese biological-weapons program.”
The White House has yet to directly comment on the new statements. U.S. national-security advisor Jake Sullivan stated on CNN that “President Biden specifically requested that the national labs, which are part of the Energy Department, be brought into this assessment because he wants to put every tool at use to be able to figure out what happened here.” The reality is more information is needed to make an absolute conclusion on the virus’s origin. There is no room for any residual doubt.
Unfortunately, the Chinese Government is the biggest barrier in the way of getting the necessary information. They have placed restrictions on World Health Organization (WHO) investigations, allowed limited, if any, access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and have even stated that the virus emerged outside of China altogether.
As we approach March 15th, 2023, exactly 3 years after the official beginning of the Covid-19 lockdowns in the U.S., many are reflecting on the whirlwind that has been the last few years of our lives. Every single person was affected by Covid. People lost family, friends, and idols. Inequity in healthcare was exposed and hospitals were pushed beyond their breaking point. Nevertheless, we persisted. And now, as we head into the post-Covid world, we are looking for reparations. Finding the origin of Covid will not only provide some sense of closure to all the loss that was experienced, but it will also serve as a lesson for how humanity can protect itself from another global pandemic.