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COVID Origins Probe Uncovers Potential Lab Leak, Misconduct, And Compliance Failures

Committee makes steady progress in investigating COVID origins.

Credit: Ureem2805 - Wikimedia commons

Four years after the Coronavirus unleashed a global pandemic that brought much of the world to a standstill, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is making headway in its quest to solve the enigma surrounding the origins of the virus. Chaired by Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio doctor and Republican, the bipartisan Committee is conducting a thorough investigation - sitting through more than a hundred hours of transcribed interviews and reviewing piles of documents. The Committee's probe has brought into sharper focus the activities of Dr. Peter Daszak and his organization, EcoHealth Alliance.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance were conducting research in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the epicenter of the global pandemic. Their research on bat coronaviruses was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), in effect, the American taxpayers. The lab's work and activities, during and after the COVID-19 outbreak, have come under intense scrutiny.

Miles Lichtman, Washington congresswoman and Democratic staff director of the select subcommittee, states, "It's so important to restore confidence in public health and science by showing that where we identify misconduct, we take it seriously." She emphasizes, "That is not a political issue; that is about best serving the American people."

In 2020, faced with an unprecedented global health crisis, Coronavirus became a deeply political issue. While the Chinese government tried to stifle impartial investigations by international scientific teams, the Wuhan Institute of Virology refused to furnish pertinent information. Despite the outbreak being a medical emergency demanding a scientific approach, COVID-19 soon dissolved into a finger-pointing blame game.

The answer to the origin of the virus is still far from settled. But, finally, possibilities are not being dismissed as 'conspiracy theories' and 'witch hunts.' Desperate to shield the truth and protect institutions, individuals, and maybe even governments, during the outbreak, any mention of a possible lab leak or human hand in engineering the pandemic-causing virus was shot down without a scientific investigation. The question remains – is anyone guilty of setting the pandemic? If so, who?

Though the NIH maintains that the virus likely originated from a natural zoonotic spillover, Lawrence Tabak, acting director of NIH, stresses the importance of considering all possibilities regarding the virus's origins.

Thanks to the Committee's dedicated efforts, action is being taken against those who played the system and ignored compliance with department standards. Based on the Committee's findings, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has suspended funding to both Dr. Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance and disbarred both entities from receiving federal funds. HHS also criticized the research organization for failing to notify the NIH that the coronaviruses that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was studying had "appeared to grow beyond permissible thresholds."

Dr. Daszak has vehemently denied wrongdoing and vowed to vigorously contest the decision.  He alleged that the Committee proposed his debarment before hearing his testimony. Meanwhile, the focus on Dr. Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance has given rise to speculation of scapegoating and attempting to protect others' involvement.

The Committee has also unearthed potential misconduct, including attempts to circumvent government transparency laws. Dr. David Morens, the Fauci adviser, another party to the investigation had been asked to go on administrative leave amid concerns about federal records violations. Subpoenaed e-mail records show that he had gone out of his way to help his friend Dr. Daszak. He collaborated with the NIH's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) office to evade government transparency regulations and used personal e-mail accounts to conduct work correspondence.

As the investigation progresses, it is critical to pursue transparency to comprehensively understand the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation is not just about assigning responsibility; it is also imperative to devise measures to prevent future global pandemics.

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