From Whence Covid?

From Whence Covid?


Leonard Zwelling

I got to know Scott Gottlieb when we were both working on Capitol Hill in 2009. Scott was then a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent think tank. He was also a real practicing hospitalist. He still is at AEI but since 2009 he has served as President Trump’s first FDA Commissioner (2017-2019) and before 2009 he was a government official at both the FDA and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) which runs those two large government programs. Scott was a frequent witness at congressional hearings during the run up to the Affordable Care Act representing the Republican point of view. For the last several months Scott has been a frequent guest on national TV news programs and a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal every Monday, often with another friend of Len, Mark McClelland, also a former FDA Commissioner and now a leader of the Duke faculty. OK, enough name dropping.

The attached article is by Scott from February 22 and discusses the ethical lapses of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of the lethal coronavirus having finally being allowed entry into China and where Chinese officials are now saying that the virus was more likely to have entered China in European frozen food than having emanated from a secret virology facility in Wuhan. This is nonsense as Scott points out, but necessary politics if the WHO was ever to gain that entry into China.

Look, we don’t really know where the virus that causes covid came from. We do know this. The earliest reported cases were in China, either from Wuhan or from another province. We know a virus like this originates in bats and bats carrying said virus live in caves in China. We know that the virus may have jumped to humans from an intermediary mammal, one perhaps sold in the “wet market” in Wuhan. And, we know there is a large experimental virology facility studying viruses like coronavirus in Wuhan, which seems to be the epicenter of the earthquake that is covid.

That the virus came into China from outside is laughable. As Dr. Gottlieb points out no instances of the virus on frozen food products has been found. It is just as risible that the virus originated from outside China, although it is certainly possible that the first human case was not in Wuhan. The first wide-spread reporting of the disease caused by the virus seems to have stemmed from there though.

I am not sure what it is going to take for the west and its large organizations like the WHO to realize that China is not our friend. There is an ethic there of both communism in the party politics of autocracy and raw capitalism in its willingness to compete using any means necessary including the theft of intellectual property that suggests that the west is in a battle the likes of which it has not seen since the fall of the Cold War Soviet Union or maybe even World War II.

The reason it is so crucial that we get to the bottom of the origins of the coronavirus is not to assign blame. China has already earned our enmity by not having warned the world soon enough about the threat of the coronavirus and the illness it was seeing in December of 2019. The real reason to get to the origin of the virus is to take the steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If there was an inadvertent leak from the viral facility, security must be beefed up there and at all such facilities around the world. If this was a purposeful attempt to undermine the west by a sworn enemy, that too needs to be unearthed. And if this was an inadvertent jump of an animal virus to humans, we better get ready for more of them, because there is very little that can be done short of shutting down all wet markets throughout the globe.

That the coronavirus wrecked havoc on the world cannot be denied. But if we allow the integrity of our major institutions like the WHO to be undermined by politics and hurt feelings on the part of our enemies, we will pay an even greater price. The United States must insist that there be a thorough outside investigation of the origins of covid on the ground in Wuhan by independent teams from around the world including China. Then and only then can we take the logical steps to try to eliminate a replay of this nightmare. If that embarrasses the Chinese, too bad. As Dr. Gottlieb stated in his op-ed:

“The WHO risks eroding its standing and mission if it trades rigor for access and the pretense of relevancy.”

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