Trump CDC chief: Coronavirus 'escaped' from Chinese lab

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Robert Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believed the virus that causes Covid-19 originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China — contradicting the assessment of the World Health Organization and most public health experts.

In an interview with CNN’s Sanjay Gupta that aired Friday, the former Trump administration official also speculated that the virus began transmitting within central China’s Hubei province in September or October 2019, a potential time frame more in line with mainstream scientific views.

“That’s my own view. It’s only an opinion. I’m allowed to have opinions now,” said Redfield, who served as CDC director from 2018 until the end of former President Donald Trump’s term. He is now a senior adviser for public health to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on the state’s pandemic response.

Regarding the origins of the virus, Redfield went on to say: “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely ideology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory. Escaped. 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.”

Redfield’s remarks come after a WHO team concluded last month the virus was “extremely unlikely” to have leaked from a Chinese lab — specifically, the Wuhan Institute of Virology — and more likely first transmitted to humans from an animal. The WHO team is expected to release a final report on their findings in the near future, although questions remain about whether its investigation was sufficiently free and open.

Most scientists also believe the virus developed naturally and, at some unknown point, jumped from an animal to a human — just as two related viruses, SARS and MERS, have done within the last two decades. But many experts say they cannot completely rule out the possibility that the virus escaped from a lab, although they consider such a scenario unlikely.

Since the initial Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, numerous high-profile conservative commentators, Republican lawmakers and former Trump administration officials have promoted the theory that the virus leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, offering little evidence to support their assertions as they seek to cast blame on China’s Communist government for the disease’s spread. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) are among the chief proponents of the lab theory.

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