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Thread: Coronavirus with an R0 of 3 or beyond

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    Some more perspective on this virus.

    Should definitive evidence come out indicting the lab in Wuhan, or any other facility, it wouldn't in any way redeem Trump’s performance. His failure not just to take effective action, but to block effective action, was entirely independent of the virus’ origin. The lab leak theory is a distraction.

    But even as a distraction, it has a purpose: undermining faith in the experts who have, from the outset, pointed out that the most likely route of transmission was zoonotic transfer. It’s a punt, being undertaken by the same team that is currently taking action to block public health officials from taking effective action against future pandemics and preventing any restrictions that would encourage the use of vaccines.

    There are currently 219 viruses known to infect humans. Of those, the number that infected humans by zoonotic transfer is approximately 219. The number known to have entered the human population after first passing through a lab is 0. That doesn’t mean there have not been lab accidents with known viruses. There have been many lab accidents with known viruses. Some of them extremely serious. But that’s a very different thing from blaming a lab for the first incidence of a new infection.
    Multiple outlets, including many that should know better, have pushed stories in the last few days that suggest the lab escape theory is supported by new evidence or is gaining adherents in the scientific community. Driving this idea are claims by former CDC Director Robert Redfield, an article from the Wall Street Journal claiming “exquisite” intelligence about researchers in Wuhan falling ill, unsupported statements from scientists not directly involved in coronavirus research, and papers from scam artists pretending to be scientists.

    Asked about the supposed new evidence in support of the lab leak theory, the scientist appointed by the World Health Organizations to investigate the origins of the virus put it succinctly. They are still working to discover that origin, and when it comes to the lab leak theory, “This ‘growing body of evidence’—we haven’t seen it.”
    As Aragorn has already discussed,

    Teams of scientists examined the genetic sequence of the virus, and despite seeing new features that at first made them worry that the virus might have been engineered in some way, within weeks “the scientists unanimously concluded there was no evidence of lab manipulation.”

    Even after scientists had come to agree with the early WHO announcement that the virus had most likely been transmitted to humans from animals, the effort to prove otherwise continued from “Public health officials, intelligence officers and officials at the State Department and the National Security Council.” It was actually a State Department website belonging to the U.S. Embassy in Georgia that published the “fact sheet” which formed the basis of the Wall Street Journal article. That sheet was posted by an unknown State Department employee in the days just before Trump left office.
    Not providing evidence of the lab escape theory was seen as a weak position that represented risk to agencies and individuals. Even so, those agencies were not able to actually find a “smoking gun” that connected the virus and the lab.

    There are certainly experts who don’t believe that the features of the virus show any sign of human manipulation. That includes NIH Director Francis Collins, who says that “An expert trying to design an even more effective coronavirus would never have come up with this design.”

    The way SARS-CoV-2 attacks human cells is genuinely novel, and not something simply borrowed from other related viruses. It’s the unique result of evolution.

    At the same time Collins supports the continued search for the origin of the virus and explicitly does not rule out the lab escape theory. Neither does Anthony Fauci. Neither does the World Health Organization, That’s why both the U.S. government and the WHO are continuing with investigations into the origin of the virus.
    However, people should be prepared for it to take years to get that answer. And when we do, it may seem to come out of left field. After all, while scientists have generally agreed that an outbreak at the Wuhan Seafood Market represents the first-known superspreader event for COVID-19, this could be several weeks and many miles removed from the actual origin of the disease. The SARS-CoV-2 virus may have been transmitted from animal to human at a site in rural China hundreds of miles from where that first outbreak emerged. Future surveys may find antibodies of a related disease in some wholly different region of the country, leading to the eventual deamination of an animal source—that’s what happened with SARS. It may also turn out that the virus came from just nine miles down the road, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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