Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House COVID-19 task force says there’s no scientific evidence that the virus was created in a Chinese lab, a take that stands in contrast to recent comments by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, (the scientific evidence) is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic in an interview posted Monday. “Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that (this virus) evolved in nature and then jumped species.”
Fauci added that the theory that someone may have discovered the virus in an animal and brought it to a lab from which it accidentally spread doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny, either.
The comments from the nation’s top expert on infectious diseases came just days after Pompeo said that, like Trump, he has seen unspecified evidence linking the pandemic to a lab in Wuhan.
China’s state-owned Global Times responded that Pompeo’s comments had “stunned the world,” arguing he had no evidence and that “he was bluffing,” CNN reported.
While Trump in January praised China for its response to the virus, the president, Pompeo and others in the administration have recently hammered Chinese officials for not sharing more information about the outbreak earlier.
Pompeo also said, however, that he had “no reason to doubt” the intelligence community’s conclusion which is in synch with many scientists’, linking the virus’s origins to a wet market in Wuhan, where it reportedly spread from animals to humans.
U.S. intelligence agencies concur “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified,” the office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement last week.
Fauci has publicly disagreed with the president multiple times this year. Last month, he urged caution on hydroxychloroquine and other drugs previously in clinical trials for COVID-19 treatment while the president touted their potential effectiveness.
Recently, as Trump and several governors move to reopen the American economy, Fauci has pressed the U.S. to ramp up testing capacity and ensure testing materials are readily available across the country to get a better handle on the disease ahead of a possible resurgence in the coming months.
But Trump has touted the millions of tests already conducted, noting the country has performed more tests than anywhere in the world. The Trump administration also recently shared with governors detailed maps including testing locations that were not being used to capacity in every state.
“Shame on us if we don’t have enough tests by the time this so-called return might occur in the fall and winter,” Fauci told National Geographic, adding that the country also needs to continue bulking up supplies of ventilators, personal protective equipment and hospital beds. “I don’t think there’s a chance that this virus is just going to disappear. It’s going to be around, and if given the opportunity, it will resurge.”
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