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Good News: We Can Now Discuss the COVID Lab Leak Theory Rationally – Even in Dem-Led Committee Hearings

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing Tuesday titled “Origins of COVID-19: An Examination of Available Evidence.” The committee, chaired by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) as the ranking member, hosted four witnesses: 

  • Gregory D. Koblentz, Ph.D. — Associate Professor and Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University
  • Robert F. Garry, Ph.D. — Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Medicine at Tulane University
  • Steven C. Quay, M.D., Ph.D. — Chief Executive Officer of Atossa Therapeutics, Inc., and former faculty at the Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Richard H. Ebright, Ph.D. — Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Laboratory Director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University

What stands out about this hearing is not so much the discussion regarding the origins of COVID — there have been several of those, and the House has a select subcommittee devoted to the pandemic — but that it was a Democrat-led hearing in which not even the Democrat-invited witnesses ruled out the lab leak theory as implausible. We’ve come a long way, Baby.  

Some key takeaways from the hearing: 

  • Committee Chair Gary Peters gave credence to both the natural origin theory and the lab leak theory, noting: “Given the likelihood that the Chinese government may never fully disclose all the information they have about the initial COVID-19 outbreak, we want to use the scientific information available to better prepare for future potential pandemics.” 
  • Ranking Member Rand Paul remained open to either theory, though leaning more toward the lab as the origin: “Do we know for certain it came from the lab? No, but there’s a preponderance of evidence indicating that it may have come from the lab. Do we know viruses have come from animals in the past? Yes, they’ve come from animals in the past, but this time, there’s no animal reservoir.”
  • Koblentz (invited by the Democrats) testified: “I believe available evidence points most strongly to a natural zoonotic spillover event as the origin of the pandemic. However, a research-related accident can’t be ruled out at this time.”
  • Garry (also invited by the Democrats) testified: “I do not believe that the available scientific evidence when considered holistically supports that the virus was created in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.  However, I am first and foremost a scientist, and I will adhere to the scientific method. So, I will continue to evaluate new evidence and reassess the validity of my scientific hypotheses regarding the origins of SARS-CoV-2.”
  • Quay (invited by the Republicans), noting some of SARS-CoV-2’s unique features, testified: “The probability that SARS-CoV-2 came from nature based on these features is one in a billion.”
  • Ebright (also invited by the Republicans) testified: “A virus having the exact features proposed in the 2018 NIH and DARPA proposals emerged on the doorstep of Wuhan Institute of Virology. SARS-CoV-2 is the only one of more than 800 known SARS viruses that possesses a furin cleavage site. Mathematically, this observation alone implies that the probability of finding a natural SARS virus possessing a furin cleavage site is less than one in 800.”

Despite the serious topic, there were some moments of levity in the hearing. 

Homeland Security Committee ranking member Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked Ebright at one point whether his staunch support for the lab leak hypothesis was a “right-wing conspiracy” or he was a “crazy Republican partisan.”
“I’m a registered Democrat. I voted for [President] Biden. I have a Biden sign on my lawn and have a Biden bumper sticker,” Ebright began before Paul cut in to say, “All right that’s enough of that,” causing lawmakers and attendees in the hearing room to erupt with laughter.

Dr. Quay’s testimony laid out the primary reasons he believes the origin of the virus was most likely a gain-of-function lab leak.

Standing Up Against the White House Plot to Shut Down Discussion of Lab Leak Theory, COVID Shot Effects

10 Facts About the Origin of SARS-CoV-2 Everyone Needs to Know

MIT Virologist Tells UK Parliamentary Committee That SARS-CoV-2 Was Likely Engineered, Originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology

His written testimony spells it all out in detail, but this section sums it up well: 

First, the virus was spreading in Wuhan in the early fall of 2019, two to four months before the first case in the Hunan Seafood Market. This is supported by fourteen observations or evidence. This should be sufficient to dismiss the Hunan Market as the source of the outbreak.
Second, I look at the data from the market, including human infections, animal samples, and environmental specimens. This involves looking at eight observations or evidence. None of these data are consistent with an infected animal passing SARS2 to a human at the market.
Third, documented events at or related to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or WIV, beginning in March 2019, are consistent with the expected activities of a virology lab in which a laboratory-acquired infection has occurred. I will go through that timeline.
Fourth, the evidence that is found in a natural zoonosis with respect to the animal host, the virus, and the human population in the vicinity of the outbreak is missing for the COVID pandemic. Each of these three components of a zoonosis will be examined separately and each will be found wanting.
Fifth, the genome of SARS-CoV-2 has seven features that would be expected to be found in a virus constructed in a laboratory and which are not found in viruses from nature. The statistical probability of finding each feature in nature can be determined and the combined probability that SARS2 came from nature is less than one in 1.2 billion.
These same features were described in a grant application submitted to DARPA in 2018 by scientists from the WIV, together with US collaborators.
Sixth and final, the earliest genomes of SARS2 were unstable and could not have come from an animal host without the stabilizing mutation, the so-called D614G change, that appeared in human viruses beginning January 1st, 2020. The consequence of this is that I can conclude that the first human infection occurred soon after the insertion of the furin cleavage site in the laboratory and before extensive animal testing. Otherwise, the first human cases would have had this stabilizing mutation.
It also means that the unstable version of SARS2 could not have been circulating in animals, otherwise it would have acquired the stabilizing mutation. If any virologist can find an animal host that can transmit the unstable ancestral SARS2 five or more times without obtaining the stabilizing mutation, they have found a hypothetical candidate for a spillover host. All testing to date of potential hosts has failed this test.

As Peters rightly notes, the probability that the Chinese government will never fully cooperate in the investigation of the pandemic’s origin makes the likelihood of ever finding definitive answers on it slim. Nevertheless, hearings such as this, where the witnesses and inquisitors allow for the scientific method rather than a preferred political narrative to be the driver, are a step in the right direction. It’s too bad it took over four years to get to that point. One wonders how many lives were sacrificed in pursuit of the narrative rather than the science. 

I’ll add this: One of the most maddening aspects of this entire escapade was the fact that we were so hamstrung in our ability to report on it while we were in the middle of it. The government and their Big Tech buddies had such a stranglehold on messaging that outlets like RedState, who were doing our darnedest to report on the evidence — factually — were being censored at every turn. That’s the primary reason we developed and keep promoting our VIP membership program. It helps lessen our need to be beholden to the whims of the censor scolds. That, in turn, enables us to pursue more of the investigative work and independent journalism that have made us a go-to site for so many of you. We appreciate your readership and your support. I’d simply ask that if you’re not already a member, you give it some serious consideration. Using promo code SAVEAMERICA will get you a 50 percent discount off the cost — and for the full VIP Gold membership, that’s a savings of roughly $45 (and also means you’re getting VIP access across all the Townhall sites for less than $4 a month.) I may be biased — but I think we’re worth it. 

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