Rockin’ pneumonia or the Wuhan flu? A look back [With comment by John]

The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend’s big story about the probable origin of the Covid-19 virus in China’s Wuhan lab. In the related editorial this morning the Journal calls its scoop “Another turn in the Covid lab-leak story.” The editorial harks back to the April 2020 op-ed column “Coronavirus and the laboratories in Wuhan” by Senator Tom Cotton. Senator Cotton has posted the column in accessible form here. Today’s Journal editorial recalls: “The media conformity caucus immediately derided Mr. Cotton for peddling a ‘conspiracy theory’ that had been ‘debunked,’ as the Washington Post put it at the time.”

It has seemed to us from the outset that the circumstantial evidence supporting the origin of the virus in a Wuhan lab was overwhelming. Scrolling through our archives, I see that John Hinderaker and I have devoted many, many posts to the subject. I wrote “Rocking pneumonia or the Wuhan flu?” in a post dated May 24, 2021, a year after Senator Cotton’s column. Based on Wall Street Journal reporting that I found powerfully suggestive, this is what I wrote nearly two years ago and this has been my theme: “It’s not too late to apply common sense to the available evidence, including the circumstantial evidence provided by the behavior of the Chinese Communist Party authorities.”

* * * * *

It will not come as a great shock to Power Line readers to learn, as the Wall Street Journal reports from previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence: “Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin.” Subhead: “Report says researchers went to hospital in November 2019, shortly before confirmed outbreak; adds to calls for probe of whether virus escaped lab.”

With a New York Times-style byline listing three reporters, the story relates from previously undisclosed intelligence that the reporters themselves have not seen: “Three researchers from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough in November 2019 that they sought hospital care[.]”

Alright, it may shock you that U.S. intelligence has the information, but the substance of it will shock only the willfully blind, whose numbers should not be underestimated. According to the Journal, however, the information was obtained via another service:

Current and former officials familiar with the intelligence about the lab researchers expressed differing views about the strength of the supporting evidence for the assessment. One person said that it was provided by an international partner and was potentially significant but still in need of further investigation and additional corroboration.

Another person described the intelligence as stronger. “The information that we had coming from the various sources was of exquisite quality. It was very precise. What it didn’t tell you was exactly why they got sick,” he said, referring to the researchers.

The Biden administration will leave the heavy lifting to international experts who have served us so well during the pandemic:

The Biden administration declined to comment on the intelligence but said that all technically credible theories on the origin of the pandemic should be investigated by the WHO and international experts.

“We continue to have serious questions about the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, including its origins within the People’s Republic of China,” said a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.

“We’re not going to make pronouncements that prejudge an ongoing WHO study into the source of SARS-CoV-2,” the spokeswoman said. “As a matter of policy we never comment on intelligence issues.”

The Journal story is laughable with its gingerly handling of the sensitivities involved. We don’t want to be too rash. However, we do have this from happier days:

David Asher, a former U.S. official who led a State Department task force on the origins of the virus for then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told a Hudson Institute seminar in March that he doubted that the lab researchers became sick because of the ordinary flu.

“I’m very doubtful that three people in highly protected circumstances in a level three laboratory working on coronaviruses would all get sick with influenza that put them in the hospital or in severe conditions all in the same week, and it didn’t have anything to do with the coronavirus,” he said, adding that the researchers’ illness may represent “the first known cluster” of Covid-19 cases.

Long characterized by skeptics as a conspiracy theory, the hypothesis that the pandemic could have begun with a lab accident has attracted more interest from scientists who have complained about the lack of transparency by Chinese authorities or conclusive proof for the alternate hypothesis: that the virus was contracted by humans from a bat or other infected animal outside a lab.

Conspiracy theory and confusing coincidence, or what? Rockin’ pneumonia or the Wuhan flu? The Journal story concludes:

Members of the WHO-led team said Chinese counterparts had identified 92 potential Covid-19 cases among some 76,000 people who fell sick between October and early December 2019, but turned down requests to share raw data on the larger group. That data would help the WHO-led team understand why China sought to only test those 92 people for antibodies.

Team members also said they asked for access to a Wuhan blood bank to test samples from before December 2019 for antibodies. Chinese authorities declined at first, citing privacy concerns, then agreed, but have yet to provide that access, team members say.

It’s not too late to apply common sense to the available evidence, including the circumstantial evidence provided by the behavior of the Chinese Communist Party authorities.

JOHN adds: I would add just one more common-sense observation. The alternative to the lab leak theory is the assumption that covid-19 developed in bats and then jumped to humans. That theory implies that somewhere, there is a wild bat population infected with covid-19. However, after more than three years of searching, no such infected wild bat has ever been found. QED, in my opinion.

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