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Escaping from a Test Tube

 

By David Haldane

May 13, 2021

 

My wife works in a space suit.

She also dons rubber gloves, face mask, face shield, and tight-fitting scrubs under a germ-proof lab coat. She does all this because she’s a clinical laboratory scientist at two local medical labs. And, like everyone in her field, she understands that lots of viruses hang out there and accidents are not uncommon.

“It happens all the time,” says Ivy, who’s been doing this kind of work, both in the U.S. and the Philippines, for over fifteen years. “That’s why you have to be so careful.”

Which is exactly what probably didn’t happen at a certain now-infamous medical research lab in Wuhan, China, according to a new report by an expert who seems to know what he’s talking about.

The result: a global pandemic that has devastated the world.

What’s intriguing about Nicholas Wade’s article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is that he doesn’t jump to conclusions, but lets the evidence speak for itself. And after exhaustively exploring the two major theories regarding Covid-19’s origins—that it came from edible bats sold at a neighborhood wet market or escaped from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology eight miles away—he lands with a definite lean.

“Neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out,” writes Wade, described by the magazine as a science writer, editor and author who has worked on the staff of the New York Times. “That said, the available evidence leans more strongly in one direction… that proponents of lab escape can explain all the available facts considerably more easily than those who favor natural emergence.”

Among those available facts, he asserts, is that the deadly scourge emerged already well suited to assaulting humans with little or no evidence of its evolution from a bat-devouring virus to one that attacks people. Add to that a well-documented research project the Wuhan lab was conducting on the ability of novel coronaviruses to infect humans—the safety of which even U.S. State Department inspectors questioned as early as 2018—and, voila, the implication is clear.

One reason for the U.S. government’s reluctance to weigh in, Wade writes, may be that the controversial research was partially funded by the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases directed by none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also serves as the U.S. President’s chief medical advisor.

“Did the virus come from a Chinese lab funded by the celebrated doctor’s U.S. government institute?” the Wall Street Journal asks in a recent opinion piece entitled “China, Fauci and the Origins of Covid.”

Some might argue, I suppose, that those origins are irrelevant, especially this late in the game. To which I would reply that the root causes of any disease that snatches away 3.2 million souls is well worth our attention.

Frequently these days my hardworking wife comes home with harrowing tales of her exploits in the lab. Many involve testing the blood and saliva of people infected with the same nasty microbe that’s changed all our lives. To her and fellow lab workers everywhere, my admonition is the same: for God’s sake be safe and by all means stay sane.

 

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David Haldane’s latest book, a short-story collection called “Jenny on the Street,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines.

 

 

Originally Published in Mindanao Gold Star Daily

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Simon Gibson says:

    Having worked at GSK and SmithKline Beachams R&D as an environment control engineer for 20 years, until my retirement, I have an open mind as to the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Both scenarios, lab origin and natural origin, are very plausible and extremely difficult to prove beyond doubt. The way forward is to implement the recommendations of the recent WHO report to ensure we act with transparency, speed and without government restrictions when a virus is again detected.

  2. Randy Kemner says:

    What if it were both? Perhaps the lab was studying what they found in people who visited the wet market? We know the Chinese government was less than forthcoming, as was the U.S. administration, which by Trump’s own admission didn’t want to cause a panic, and later led people into a false sense of security.

    The larger issue you didn’t confront, except perhaps obliquely, was the stuff of conspiracy theorists, Trump devotees and Q-Anon believers, that China purposely unleashed Covid-19 on the world from that lab, and China, not Trump’s lack of leadership, was responsible for letting this scourge loose in our population and fostering a partisan divide on mask-wearing and vaccination defiance. That it continues in the face of such destruction is mind-boggling.

    There were countries, like Taiwan, which contained the outbreak, allowing their economies to remain open. Their previous experience with SARS and other plagues prepared them well for Covid-19. Of course, with a modern national healthcare database, tracking people’s movements became faster and more efficient when it came time to quarantine people. Without really knowing for sure, I suspect their citizenry believed their experts and took seriously their mobilization, unlike populist-led countries like Brazil and the U.S.

    Again, it could be both the Chinese and American governments were at fault, but we know for sure what happened after the first known case made it to U.S. shores, and that downplaying the deadly potential of this disease did great damage to our people. That is beyond dispute.

    • David Haldane says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Randy. Last year when the virus first became known, we were living in the Philippines which, by most accounts, had the world’s earliest, longest and most strictly enforced lockdown. And yet, the country was one of the hardest hit in Asia and, even now, still has severe lockdowns in its two major cities, Manila and Cebu. I have seen studies showing a less-than-significant correlation between the length and strength of lockdowns and the prominence of viral infections. So, sorry, you’re going to have to show me some convincing evidence before I’ll agree with your “undisputed” assertion that downplaying the disease’s deadly potential early on had a major impact on its outcome. That said, I do hope you are safe and healthy. And, hey, if you’ve been vaccinated, you can finally get rid of the mask, yahoo!!

  3. W. A. Miller says:

    Hi David;
    Good story and I don’t really have any answers, unlike so many others. But I can read English, old enough to know politicians lie for power & money, news media wants to sell newspapers, and since the time when I worked around race horses; many owned by doctors & lawyers, that doctors in most cases know only what the drug salesmen tell them. I read about this virus originated in an American lab, sent to Canada then onto China for research on the cheap like, everything we buy from China. Now, to me, that makes sense cuz’ that is how I, as a businessman would do it, trying to make a bigger profit. Apple computer, along with clothing manufactures have been do so forever it seems. Now, that makes sense. To me, it seems, that the books written by George Orwell, should be required reading for all. I Thank GOD that my Mother urged me to read. Unlike other children whose first word was “NO!”, mine was “why?” It was fun word since it drove grown ups crazy. Especially since some of questions they didn’t have the answer to. Sort of like scientists today on the Chinese Virus thing.

  4. visit says:

    You really make it seem really easy with your presentation but I to find this topic to be actually one thing which I think I might by no means understand. It seems too complicated and extremely wide for me. I’m looking ahead for your next put up, I will try to get the hang of it!

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