The former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, told CNN’s chief medical correspondent during an interview that it is his belief that the novel coronavirus pandemic originated from labs in Wuhan, China.
As the former director who served under former President Donald Trump, Redfield stated to CNN correspondent Sanjay Gupta, “the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory.” The doctor added: “Other people don’t believe that, that’s fine, science will eventually figure it out.”
Redfield stated that if he “was to guess, this virus started transmitting somewhere in September, October, in Wuhan. Also, noting that he believed the virus was already starting to spread as early as the Autumn of 2019. He continued by stating: “That’s my own view. It’s only an opinion. I’m allowed to have opinions now.”
“It’s not unusual for respiratory pathogens that are being worked on in [a] laboratory to infect the laboratory worker.”
When pressed by Gupta that his statements were quite significant, Redfield emphasized that it was his opinion and that he was not “implying any intentionality.” This seems to mean that while he thinks it did get leaked from and start in a Chinese lab, Redfield did not believe it to be malicious or intentional.
Redfield continually stated that he was just offering his opinion because he has spent his entire “life in virology.” He also told Gupta that “normally” when a pathogen jumps to humans, “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.”
Redfield’s opinion seems to go against the running standard we see from most other experts in the field. These experts, along with CNN, reported on his remarks and called his opinion “a controversial theory without evidence.” Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, the lead WHO investigator looking into the origins of the COVID-19 outbreak, has called the theory that is a lab-leak “very unlikely,” reports Reuters.
An evolutionary virologist at the University of Utah, Stephen Goldstein, has made comments on Redfield’s statements by saying that “one recent paper suggests there [were] adaptive changes during early transmission in humans.” Goldstein also referred to another research paper that suggests that the “SARS-CoV-2 spike isn’t even good at producing infection of human cells — related viruses are much better. This virus is not optimized for humans.”
Goldstein ended by saying, “Finally, from a ‘biological standpoint’ as he says, there’s no reason to think serial passage in culture produces a virus more transmissible in humans.”
“The WHO is examining this and will be releasing a report soon. We’ll review that report once it’s available,” said Press Secretary Psaki. “We continue to learn more about the early status of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its origins, so we can better prepare for future crises.”
With reports still flooding in and the WHO investigation still ongoing, there is still more information to come.