Case closed?

Maybe not yet, but we are getting awfully close.

I’m doing this post partly because I think people are underestimating the importance of recent research on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, which points more and more strongly to a zoonotic origin. Matt Yglesias has a very sharp analytical mind, but I’m not sure that even he is quite seeing the picture.

There’s essentially only one important remaining piece of evidence pointing to a lab leak, the fact that Covid first appeared in Wuhan, which contains a virus research lab. That’s consistent with both a lab leak from a natural sample or a lab leak from gain-of-function research. All of the other so-called evidence pointing to a lab leak has been thoroughly discredited. To his credit, Yglesias doesn’t rely on the discredited evidence, just the coincidence of the virus popping up in Wuhan.

I’d like to make two points here. First, the virus emerging in Wuhan is nowhere near as a much of a weird coincidence as one might think. Second, evidence pointing to a zoonotic origin is a bit stronger than Yglesias assumes.

Let’s start with SARS1, which everyone agrees is of natural origin. It first appeared in 2002 in Foshon, which is part of the huge Guangzhou metro area in the even more massive Pearl River delta metroplex. That city is nearly as far from the bat caves of Yunnan as is Wuhan. It also appeared in November, just as did the outbreak in Wuhan. The first known cases were associated with an animal market, just as in Wuhan. Furthermore, Wuhan is in Hubei province, which is full of the sort of mammals that provide a plausible transmission to humans:

Please read his entire thread.

BTW, Andersen’s source is a 2008 paper, for all you conspiracy theorists.

Here’s what you need to know about virus outbreaks:

1. Southern China is different from northern China; they eat lots of unusual animals.

2. The animals are brought to large markets in big cities, where disease outbreaks tend to occur.

3. This has been going on for a long time—remember the Hong Kong flu? (Which didn’t necessarily begin in HK, but was first noticed in the Pearl River delta area.) China has been a leading source for global pandemics throughout history.

The biggest metro areas in south China are the Pearl River Delta metroplex, Wuhan, Chongqing and Chengdu. These are the cities where you’d expect a new global pandemic to begin. And more specifically, you’d expect the pandemic to begin in an animal market in one of those big cities. So please don’t anyone tell me that it’s a one in a thousand chance that Covid would begin in a Wuhan animal market, that’s nonsense.

The new research shows that the Covid-19 outbreak did first show up near a Wuhan animal market, something Yglesias acknowledges. But he also suggests that it might have begun there due to a superspreading event when a lab worker visited the market (or a nearby location) and infected lots of other people. But there are all sorts of problems with this hypothesis.

First the obvious. Wuhan is a crowded city of 11 million people. It has thousands of crowded sites where a superspreading event could have occurred. Why the animal market? Many people wrongly view it as an amazing coincidence that the outbreak occurred in Wuhan of all places, but it really would be an amazing coincidence of a lab worker brought the virus to the animal market of all places for which a superspreading event could have occurred. The “I don’t believe in coincidences” argument points strongly to a zoonotic origin.

One response is that the market is near the center of Wuhan. But it’s not just that the early cases were in the central Wuhan area; a disproportionate number were clearly associated with the market itself. Why?

Second, there doesn’t even seem to have been a superspreading event at the animal market:

And this:

Thus the spillover occurred over days and weeks, and involved two variants, A and B. Models suggest there’s only a 3.6% chance B mutated to A in humans, and what are the odds of two lab leaks?

Michael Worobey also has a good tweet thread. Here’s one point:

3. Also note that environmental samples from the animal market showed SARS-CoV-2. They could have come from humans (the animals were unfortunately destroyed), but the fact that they were more concentrated in areas of the market containing wildlife animals is at least a suggestive piece of evidence.

Does the destruction of the wildlife at the market suggests a Chinese cover-up? Absolutely. China had been heavily criticized for these markets, and China claims that the Wuhan market did not contain wildlife. We now have conclusive evidence that that was a lie. China is covering up the fact that Covid likely began in a animal market in Wuhan. There is no doubt about the cover-up; the only question is whether they are covering up something that actually happened. Indeed the Chinese are now rejecting these new studies pointing to the animal market:

In the new preprint, Gao and colleagues analyzed 1380 samples from 188 animals in the market and the environment, including sewer wells, the ground, feather removing machines, and “containers.” They found SARS-CoV-2 in 73 samples. But because all were from the environment, not the animals themselves, they assert that humans introduced the virus to the market. The authors call the market an “amplifier,” not the source, of SARS-CoV-2. 

Hewing closely to government assertions on COVID-19’s origin, the preprint by Gao and colleagues notes studies that have reported evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in other countries before it surfaced in Wuhan, making no mention of critiques that attribute that evidence to contamination. It also floats a widely disputed theory that frozen food imported to China might have been the original source. (Authors of the paper, including Gao, did not respond to requests to discuss the work.)

BTW, for you who like coincidences, chew on this one. Only once in my life did I ever see wildlife (about to be eaten) being kept in cages right on a table of the dining area of a restaurant. It was back in 1994, as I was eating one night at an outdoor restaurant and noticed out of the corner of my eye that a bag was moving slightly, just one table over to my left. On closer inspection, it was a mesh bag full of dozens of frogs, attempting to hop around. It gave me a really queasy feeling. And guess what:

The restaurant was in China.

The restaurant was in Wuhan, China.

The restaurant was in the old colonial section of Wuhan, 2 miles southeast the animal market where Sars-Cov-2 first emerged.

Coincidence? Queue the Twilight Zone music.

For many people Wuhan is just a word. For me, it’s a massive urban area full of dense crowds of people and weird animal consumption patterns. I’m not in the least surprised that Wuhan is the origin of the Covid pandemic.

On one point I agree with Yglesias. Regardless of the origin of Covid-19, virus research has the potential of being extremely dangerous and should be regulated in such a way as to reduce tail risk of an artificially engineered pandemic. That’s what we should be focusing on.

PS. If you are not aware of how the other lab leak evidence has been discredited, read this.

PPS. These new studies seem to be shifting opinion:

The studies were posted as preprints and are not peer reviewed, but scientists, biosecurity experts, journalists, and others are already intensely examining their details. “I have been brought closer to the zoonosis side with these preprints,” says Flo Débarre, an evolutionary biologist at the French national research agency, CNRS, who has followed the origin debate closely and not thrown her lot with either the natural-origin or the lab-leak camp. Evolutionary biologist William Hanage of Harvard University agrees these studies “will be taken as a blow” to the lab-leak hypothesis. “They substantially move the needle on the origins in the direction of the market,” Hanage says.

Also, check out Scientific American and the NYT.


Tags:

 
 
 

53 Responses to “Case closed?”

  1. Gravatar of Arc Arc
    3. March 2022 at 15:46

    Very interesting. I didn’t follow this story very closely at all, thinking in the end it doesn’t matter much, but I suppose the fact that whatever is the source of the virus could cause more future outbreaks goes both ways. Both wildlife markets and GoF research should be buried a hundred meters beneath a pile of skulls.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. March 2022 at 16:11

    Arc, Yes, I agree.

  3. Gravatar of David S David S
    3. March 2022 at 16:14

    A few months ago, on the good blog, you posted a map of Wuhan that showed the river that runs between the lab and the Huanan market. That alone is very convincing, because in genetics, geography is often destiny.

    Basically this:

    https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/07/19/1016005828/new-data-leads-to-rethinking-once-more-where-the-pandemic-actually-began

    Sorry, I don’t know how to embed the link.

    I had a student during the pandemic who was from Wuhan. She was both embarrassed and frustrated by everything. I don’t think she’s been able to go home in over two years.

  4. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    3. March 2022 at 16:36

    The map with the river is kind of convincing. It’s a real bummer, a lableak would be much better for all of us, as we all know, because then prevention would be so much easier.

  5. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    3. March 2022 at 22:12

    Scott,

    I guess the lab leak hypothesis seems plausible because laboratory mistakes are fairly common. In the US, reporting of accidents leads to forgiveness and coverups lead to disciplinary measures. Accidents are routine; they are contained and controlled.

    That culture is lacking in China.

    Furthermore, Authorities in China insisted this was not an airborne pathogen. Mostly likely research in this space was BSL-2. This work has nothing to do with the people in pressured bunny suits that you see in that one oft repeated picture from WIV. This is people wearing just masks and latex gloves working in a cabinet which is basically just like a chemist’s hood with a HEPA filter.

    It’s very easy to imagine getting droplets on your glove and then you wipe your forehead, eyes, etc. Or something simple like touching your phone (you are supposed to leave it outside the lab to avoid just that). It takes training and discipline to not do dangerous things and to report them when you do them and realize after the fact.

    Once that index patient gets sick … it spreads when he goes to a dense market area. At that point is seems like it would look identical to a zoonotic case if you don’t have the animals.

    Chinese labs today remind me of the 1950s military labs. Lots of radioactive contamination. Bad safety culture. Back then, biological research was a glimmer. So… China safety is culturally 70 years back in time … and now we are dealing with biological research.

  6. Gravatar of anon85 anon85
    4. March 2022 at 04:27

    Scott, I think you make good points. However, remember that the virus is not merely an arbitrary virus, but specifically a coronavirus. The lab in Wuhan is a world leader in the study of coronaviruses specifically (and not other viruses).

    Now, this could still be a coincidence; SARS1 was also a coronavirus, after all. But it’s starting to become a larger coincidence: pre-COVID, the conventional wisdom was that a novel flu virus was the most likely cause of the next pandemic, not a coronavirus. The fact that the virus is a coronavirus is surely directional evidence in favor of a lab leak as opposed to the market (and you do not mention this in your post).

    The whole situation is very strange. We are basically forced to accept a pretty big coincidence either way. For instance, the lab in Wuhan was specifically engaged in research on furin cleavage sites on SARS-like coronaviruses; SARS-COV-2 has a very strange furin cleavage site. Experts tell me it’s still unlikely to be man-made, but wow, what a coincidence, eh? No one has a good explanation of how that cleavage site could arise naturally, not even the people who say it doesn’t look man-made; it’s all just “nature does weird things sometimes” (which is true, but again, we are forced to accept a weird coincidence here).

    Or another thing: the closest relative to SARS-COV-2 found in nature was recently found in Laos. There’s no known route by which it could have gotten from Laos to Wuhan; it could be some very strange supply chains in live animal trade that no one has yet identified, or it could be a researcher from the lab in Wuhan who collected a sample there; we have evidence for neither. Both sound a little far-fetched, but one or the other must have happened. Coincidence is essentially forced here.

    I almost wonder if a lab leak caused SARS-COV-2 to spread in animals around Wuhan, which were then sold in the market… but no such animals were identified, and this “both of the above” theory sounds even more far-fetched than either pure lab leak or pure market.

  7. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. March 2022 at 06:19

    @anon85

    I almost wonder if a lab leak caused SARS-COV-2 to spread in animals around Wuhan, which were then sold in the market…

    It is much simpler than that. There is leaked data on cases of simple laboratory workers from other laboratories being sentenced to very harsh penalties after the outbreak of the disease because they did not incinerate dead laboratory animals but simply sold them secretly on food markets. This means that this is not just a theory, but real events. It has really happened this way before. These people do not earn much, it was a nice extra income for them.

    This is also supported by stories that claim that bats are not a specialty in Wuhan at all and that they are usually not eaten there at all. So it’s not really worth it bringing living bats hundreds or thousands of kilometers to Wuhan. No one really does that. But if those bats are already there anyhow, dead from the Wuhan laboratory, then they might be flogged off on the market.

  8. Gravatar of Todd Ramsey Todd Ramsey
    4. March 2022 at 06:56

    Scott,

    Completely off-topic request:

    Can you write about the meaning of the post-invasion increase in the 5 and 10 year TIPS spreads?

    The increase is correlated with decreases in 5 and 10 year Treasury rate. It seems the demand curve for U.S. Treasury securities moved in a flight to safety?

    If the demand curve moved, should Fed policymakers allow for that move when considering TIPS inflation expectations? Or should they assume the demand curve for TIPS securities would move correspondingly in any flight to safety?

  9. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    4. March 2022 at 07:07

    anon85
    Here’s a long tweet thread addressing, among other things, how that furin cleavage site could arise naturally: https://twitter.com/k_g_andersen/status/1391507230848032772?s=21

    At the beginning of the pandemic I listened to a lecture series on virology to become familiar with what was going on. At the end, the lecturer predicted the most likely causes of the next pandemic. The first was a flu, as you said. The second was a coronavirus originating in Southeast Asia. Also, further down Scott’s Professor Anderson tweet link, you’ll find a list of the many coronavirus outbreaks of the last 60 years.

  10. Gravatar of steve steve
    4. March 2022 at 07:31

    I think the evidence has always favored zoonotic origin, it is just getting stronger. The lab leak theory was started at least partially as a political thing to at least embarrass and maybe even provoke retaliation against China. That likely goes away but threshold still be pressure on China to close those wet markets. A noted China has been the source of other outbreaks and the markets are breeding grounds.

    Steve

  11. Gravatar of Todd K Todd K
    4. March 2022 at 08:14

    ” Matt Yglesias has a very sharp analytical mind, but I’m not sure that even he is quite seeing the picture.”

    “Even Yglesias,” who like Sumner, has gotten almost nothing correct about the pandemic. Listen to what he told Joe Rogan at the end of 2020.

  12. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. March 2022 at 08:45

    @steve
    Most lab leak theories do not question a zoonotic origin. The question is which way the animal went: Nature, market, human. Or nature, lab, human. Or simply both ways together: Nature, lab, market, human.

    At the first way nature, market, human, the obvious question is: Why Wuhan? A city that contains one of maybe four relevant Corona research laboratories around the world. What a weird coincidence.

    I would like to see a few mathematic probability calculations about this. Is it very likely? Is it common? Or are we in the range of a jackpot win in the lottery?

    How often is bat really brought from nature to Wuhan? Is it really a popular specialty there? And if so, how often is it eaten there?

    We don’t even know the most basic things about this, because the CCP is hiding so much — which leads to the second huge peculiarity: Why are they so secretive and so aggressive when it’s a simple genesis from nature? Where is the sense in that?

    Third question: What hard evidence actually speaks for a pure genesis from nature? There is none. It is simply wishful thinking. We don’t know much about the genesis, we know only got two peculiarities so far, and basically nothing else. Any other evidence (I know of) so far, actually proves nothing, but supports both explanations.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. March 2022 at 09:43

    Everyone, Don’t underestimate how desperately China is trying to cover-up the animal market problem.

    Jon, Initial reports suggested that safety standards at the WIV were subpar. More recent reports suggest that may be incorrect. It’s an ongoing debate.

    Yes, a lab worker may have gone to that market, but if you look at all of the other evidence, it strongly points to zoonotic origin. I’d say I’m at about 95% zoonotic, 5% lab leak.

    Certainly the original “probability” argument for the lab leak was incorrect.

    anon85, You are thinking about probabilities and virus mutations in the wrong way. There are zillions of viruses that mutate all of the time. The ultra rare case where it mutates into a global pandemic will ALWAYS look improbable, otherwise we’d have lots of such pandemics.

    Christian, The issue is not the bats, it’s the intermediate mammals infected by the bats. In neither SARS1 or SARS2 did the bats directly infect humans (AFAIK).

    Todd, A lot of that is oil prices, which will soon show up in the CPI.

  14. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. March 2022 at 10:36

    Christian, The issue is not the bats, it’s the intermediate mammals infected by the bats. In neither SARS1 or SARS2 did the bats directly infect humans (AFAIK).

    Scott,

    If there are supposedly so many intermediates (which there may be), then it should actually be even easier to find them. Where are they?

    Everyone, Don’t underestimate how desperately China is trying to cover-up the animal market problem.

    The problem with this theory is that the CCP covers up everything.

    If they are really desperate about the claimed animal market problem of Wuhan, and about that problem mostly, why don’t they at least present a few intermediates deep from the forest areas of China’s south — without any contact to animal markets at all.

    They could even move the animals from the market back into the forrest. No one would ever find out. There is no way to find out. That’s easy to fake.

    Sorry, but I don’t see how your theory makes much sense.

    In other cases the CCP is usually very creative in falsifying evidence. They are usually not even embarrassed by obvious fake evidence. They usually present fake evidence without any shame. It just has to fit a little bit, it doesn’t even have to be good. But in case of Covid-19 they just don’t come up with anything all. Why not? — My obvious guess is that there is nothing to come up with.

  15. Gravatar of Dustin Dustin
    4. March 2022 at 11:01

    There is not a single piece of biological evidence that the virus is of zoonotic origin. And nothing you’re showing here can’t be explained by a lab employee accidentally carrying the virus out and infecting others while picking up some food from the market on the way home.

    CCP destroyed many lab documents and and redesigned the lab interior.

    And you aren’t pointing to the evidence that discredits the wet market origin… the lack of positive results of the goods despite loads of tests.

    The wet market theory was more motivated by racism than a lab leak.

    I’ve stopped reading your work regularly due to your tendency to make assertions with over-stated credibility while cherry-picking evidence to support your priors.

  16. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    4. March 2022 at 12:18

    All good reasons why a superspreading event would occur in Wuhan. Though even if it leaked from a lab in Wuhan, you would still expect to see a superspreading event at the market for all those reasons.

    I’d still like to know what was the animal that was the intermediary between bats and humans, though I doubt we’ll ever learn that, even if it’s true.

    After all, if it went straight from bats to humans, the market becomes less likely (people eat a lot of things, but bats not as much), and there are possibilities (including people who were hired to get bat samples getting infected.)

    Yes, the CPC went out of its way to deny things happened in the markets, even as it shut things down. It also went out of its way to deny things happened in labs, even though the Party issued some stringent regulations on labs (and acknowledged that some of them weren’t at the safety level that they should have been at.)

    I assume that the Party doesn’t really know, wants to deny all possible hypotheses while also taking preventative actions against all possible hypotheses too. (And the party is not a monolith; it’s difficult to have accurate information because of poor incentives in a one-party totalitarian state.)

  17. Gravatar of steve steve
    4. March 2022 at 12:34

    “There is not a single piece of biological evidence that the virus is of zoonotic origin. And nothing you’re showing here can’t be explained by a lab employee accidentally carrying the virus out and infecting others while picking up some food from the market on the way home.”

    Not a single piece flab evidence that it was lab leak either. If it was caused by an employee of the lab then the pattern found in the papers Scott cited should not exist. The odds that the employee created a superspreader ONLY at the market and not at work and not at home or other events they attended are infinitesimal.

    It took years to find the true zoonotic origin of other viruses. We keep fining viruses that are closer and have the individual parts seen in Covid.

    Steve

    Steve

  18. Gravatar of Ian Hogan Ian Hogan
    4. March 2022 at 13:40

    I simply don’t understand how anyone remotely intelligent can accept the “Oh it started in a wet market in Wuhan, nothing to see here” hand-waving scenario.

    We know EcoHealth Alliance was doing work for DARPA: https://www.usaspending.gov/award/ASST_NON_HDTRA11710064_9761

    We know EcoHealth proposed to DARPA in 2018 to make full-length Coronavirus clones and research how they might spillover into humans, a grant proposal that reads almost like a literal blue-print for how researchers might accidentally create COVID-19: https://theintercept.com/2021/09/23/coronavirus-research-grant-darpa/

    We know that while DARPA apparently declined the above grant proposal, NIH / NIAID did in fact fund EcoHealth to perform research with coronaviruses and humanized mice at WIV, a topic hotly contested by Fauci and Paul over what constitutes gain-of-function: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/science/bats-covid-lab-leak-nih.html

    We know the NIH redacted almost 300 pages of its FOIA response on all this: https://theintercept.com/2022/02/20/nih-coronavirus-research-wuhan-redacted/

    We know EcoHealth President Peter Daszak, when asked about submitting a specific set of research gene sequences after COVID began in April 2020, stated that “it’s extremely important that we don’t have these sequences as part of our release”, and that doing so would “bring very unwelcome attention” to UC Davis and the PREDICT program.

    We know WIV is 7.5 miles away from the Huanan Wholesale market. We know the Wuhan CDC lab, quietly relocated by China in December 2019, was 300 yards from the Huanan Wholesale market.

    I mean, FFS people, how can you possibly believe this just occurred spontaneously? To quote Zoolander, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

  19. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    4. March 2022 at 14:08

    I don’t have the ability to do any meaningful analysis of these studies.

    I do wish these studies excluded that specific scientist. He had some emails with Fauci saying he thought it was a lab leak very early and then was posting papers saying it absolutely wasn’t a lab leak later.

    There’s something about him that he feels politicized and has motivated reasoning. I would give these studies a lot more credit if they were being pumped by someone who feels more neutral and science oriented.

  20. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    4. March 2022 at 14:10

    I guess my point is if you told me the authors name and asked me the conclusion of his research on whether it was pro or anti lab leak – I would have assumed at 95 CI that his research shows it was natural origin. It doesn’t mean he’s not right.

  21. Gravatar of Dzhaughn Dzhaughn
    4. March 2022 at 15:35

    (1) Doesn’t the zoonontic origin theory overwhelmingly expect the Sars-Cov2 virus to have been previously endemic in bats? (2) And it is not evident that it is?

    “Everyone, Don’t underestimate how desperately China is trying to cover-up the animal market problem.”

    It’s just they are more desperate to cover up the lab leak theory. Some have floated a theory of a USA origin for the virus, of course, to cover up both in the most convenient way possible.

    I know: now, let’s blame Putin!

  22. Gravatar of MichaelM MichaelM
    4. March 2022 at 15:37

    Hey Scott, is there any high frequency data that you’re using as an indicator for how the war and sanctions are affecting the stance of monetary policy?

  23. Gravatar of Effem Effem
    5. March 2022 at 04:27

    Scott, off topic but a monetary question: the real wages charts I keep seeing all suggest a sharp rise during covid and now a drift backdown towards baseline. Does that challenge the sticky wage assumption?

  24. Gravatar of steve steve
    5. March 2022 at 08:59

    We had the first reported SARS 1 cases in 2002. It took until 2017 to find the horseshoe bats that were the origin. We first had HIV in 1981 and its origin wasn’t until 1989, 1999 or 2004 when we determined its origin, date depending on how firm you want it to be.

    Steve

  25. Gravatar of Saturday assorted links – Marginal REVOLUTION Saturday assorted links - Marginal REVOLUTION
    5. March 2022 at 10:13

    […] 5. Scott Sumner on Lab Leak. […]

  26. Gravatar of Not Bob Not Bob
    5. March 2022 at 10:54

    The scientist and public officials involved who lied for political purposes have destroyed my trust in the science related to this issue. China’s behavior has been that of a guilty part.

    At this point, I don’t know how I would have trust in the evidence on this issue. Worse, the best and the brightest minds in the natural sciences have shown that they will gladly politicize results to support policy outcomes they prefer.
    That has always been a concern in the social sciences. But,as a social scientist, I assumed the natural sciences were better. It appears I was at best partially mistaken.

    There are many important issues where we should be able to trust the science in making decisions. But if we can’t trust the scientists we can’t trust the science.

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. March 2022 at 10:56

    Dustin, You said:

    “And nothing you’re showing here can’t be explained by a lab employee accidentally carrying the virus out and infecting others while picking up some food from the market on the way home.”

    Either you didn’t read my post, or you lack reading comprehension. I specifically addressed that issue. As far as the other “evidence” you cite, I’ve dealt with it in earlier posts. If you aren’t going to even address my claims, what should I take you seriously?

    Perhaps your most amusing claim is that the WIV destroyed documents in September 2019 to cover up a lab leak that occurred in November. Really?

    Ian, You said:

    “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.”

    Yes, I also feel like you are taking crazy pills.

    Sean, You said:

    “I would give these studies a lot more credit if they were being pumped by someone who feels more neutral and science oriented.”

    Worobey was one of the 15 scientists criticizing the WHO report and asking that more effort be made to look into the lab leak hypothesis. Is that guy also biased?

    Michael, The data I look at (TIPS spreads, etc.) don’t show much impact yet.

    Effem, Some of that is “composition effects”. The job losses were among the low wage workers, which had the effect of raising the average wage without impact any individuals wage. Now that’s unwinding.

  28. Gravatar of BayesT BayesT
    5. March 2022 at 12:15

    https://youtu.be/K78jqx9fx2I
    In which Jaime Metzl lays out much more than “Wuhan contains a coronavirus study lab”.
    But eventually, I agree with the conclusion that both potentially pandemic exacerbating research and live animal markets should be forbidden.

  29. Gravatar of Fred Fred
    5. March 2022 at 13:05

    You forgot to address how a virus of natural origin could contain a sequence previously patented by moderna.

  30. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    5. March 2022 at 14:43

    Perhaps your most amusing claim is that the WIV destroyed documents in September 2019 to cover up a lab leak that occurred in November. Really?

    Sumner is spreading Chinese propaganda, as always.

    The lab leak likely occurred in September. The virus had an ifr of 0.5%, compared to the claimed 5% in early 2020. That suggests that only 10% of cases were detected prior to mass testing beginning in January in Wuhan.

    China initially claimed the virus came from the wet market in November. They can’t be too embarrassed if they are still flogging the same narrative two years later. It’s much more embarrassing to start a global pandemic with American funded GOF research.

    Instead, by November the virus was pervasive enough that it found its way to the wet market. This provided China with a convenient “beginning of history”. Prior cases were either not identified, or the records were scrubbed.

    And yes, there was an intermediate host animal. It’s called a lab rat.

    Unfortunately we will never have a definitive answer, but that’s because China doesn’t want us to have one. What kind of country imposes trade sanctions on Australia for merely asking for an impartial investigation?

  31. Gravatar of BB BB
    5. March 2022 at 19:26

    >but it really would be an amazing coincidence of a lab worker brought the virus to the animal market of all places for which a superspreading event could have occurred.

    If you believe that China (or perhaps just the lab directors) are willing to lie then this is not an amazing coincidence. For example – lab higher-up realizes that virus has infected a worker and it has begun to spread throughout the city. Lab higher up informs the government of a lab leak. Government, frantic and worried, finds a plausible source (local wet market) and collects samples from many who went to it in order to build data that the virus originated there.

    If it was a lab leak it would be kinda bizarre for China to be open about it. And if they were to lie about it then the wet market is the obvious lie they can construct around it.

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. March 2022 at 20:33

    Not Bob, You said:

    “China’s behavior has been that of a guilty part.”

    Yup, they are covering up the role of the animal market.

    Fred, LOL.

    Steve, Wow, the loonies are out today. The virus crossed over in November. And the original estimates of the the IFR were well below 5%.

    BB, It’s hard to believe you are being serious. In that case they would have shut down Wuhan at the beginning of December 2019. Your comment is a perfect example of why I don’t believe most conspiracy theories—they are preposterous.

  33. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    6. March 2022 at 01:03

    Steve, Wow, the loonies are out today. The virus crossed over in November. And the original estimates of the the IFR were well below 5%.

    Wow, absolute certitude about November crossover with zero evidence. Also pathological liar about the original ifr aestimate. Wu Mao.

    The best explanation by far is the following:

    September 2019: Virus escapes Wuhan lab.

    October 2019: Wuhan Lab locks down,, and achieves Covid-Zero within lab worker environment… they thought it contained, but virus is out in Wuhan community. Lab underestimates transmissibility, but overestimates virulence.

    November 2019: Likely 1000+ cases spreading in Wuhan. Also first cases arrive in Europe, which is virtually impossible with emergent spillover at wet market, but statistically likely with 1k Wuhan cases. Two cases with different vectors arrive at wet market, which China seizes upon to falsely claim as virus origin.

    Keep in mind, both Jeremy Farrar and Cristian Andersen originally believed lab leak, but defended natural origin under duress. Farrar admitted buying burner phone to talk to Fauci about lab leak.

    Statistically the Europe arrival in November and the “double spillover” in wet market both match a September lab leak. Circumstantial evidence from lab also matches September lab leak.

    By December, 10k+ cases, with slow incubation, long lag mortality, and 0.5% ifr, finally produces a hospital cluster which is identified by Li Wenliang. First Europeans die from lab leak.

    Li Wenliang is silenced, and WHO says virus not person-to-person transmissible. China says travel bans racist. This allows China to place intelligence assets while also ensuring the rest-of-world is unprepared. China’s backup plan for failed contained succeeds.

    Absolutely no one should trust Sumner…

  34. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    6. March 2022 at 05:40

    How can an economist not factor in the human behavior here and the complete lack of transparency? How can you say case closed and not even discuss how people like Andersen changed their tune in 3 days after secretive conference calls? How can you rely so much on Andersen and ignore the arguments for lab leak that refer to Andersen’s odd pivot?

  35. Gravatar of Phil H Phil H
    6. March 2022 at 07:38

    “Wuhan, Chongqing and Chengdu. These are the cities where you’d expect a new global pandemic to begin. And more specifically, you’d expect the pandemic to begin in an animal market in one of those big cities.”
    Yes, yes, and yes. Third world hygiene standards plus first world levels of consumption and intensive animal logistics.
    The Chinese government’s “deny everything” protocol muddies every pool, but it’s helpful in a way: it means we can simply ignore what they say and follow the evidence (to the extent that reliable researchers are able to gather it).

  36. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. March 2022 at 08:59

    Steve, You said:

    “October 2019: Wuhan Lab locks down,”

    LOL. An Australian researcher was at the lab until November. She says everything was normal. Is she also part of the conspiracy?

    “Wow, absolute certitude about November crossover with zero evidence”

    Zero evidence? Is that a joke?

    “This allows China to place intelligence assets while also ensuring the rest-of-world is unprepared.”

    You should try working in Hollywood.

    Patrick, The parts of the virus that were originally suspected as being manmade have now been found in bats in Laos. And are you really going to claim that this grand conspiracy goes beyond China and includes western researchers like Andersen?

    How about Worobey? When he signed that letter criticizing the WHO was that a head fake?

  37. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. March 2022 at 09:15

    Steve, In the unlikely event you want to learn something, read this:

    https://zenodo.org/record/6291628#.YiTqkZPMKX0

  38. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    6. March 2022 at 10:01

    Scott, samples from Laos were set to WIV. This is not some aha. That’s your response to questions about Anderson’s questionable about face?

  39. Gravatar of Frank Frank
    6. March 2022 at 12:46

    “There’s essentially only one important remaining piece of evidence pointing to a lab leak, the fact that Covid first appeared in Wuhan, which contains a virus research lab.”

    If that’s evidence, then so is the BSL-2 work at WIV, the reservoir problem, Daszak’s obfuscations, etc. Circumstantial at best.

    But the thing is there’s no hard evidence on the Andersen-Worobey side either. Furthermore Andersen and Worobey have given many reasons to doubt their trustworthiness. Most people know about Andersen, but Worobey has gone around calling the idea that China censors its scientists a “conspiracy theory.” How can you trust the conclusions of someone so naive?

  40. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    6. March 2022 at 18:29

    Sumner is such a fool. What Christian List wrote on 4. March 2022 at 06:19 is closer to the truth. The WIV lab had an adjunct lab at the wet market. And Sumner doesn’t address “Serial Passage” (a lab virus made to look like a natural virus, which is how chimeric viruses are made these days). Nor does Sumner address the absence of an ‘intermediate host’. The papers Sumner cites, which surely he didn’t read or understand, are simply “appeals to authority”. The papers are saying: ‘if the C-19 virus is natural, here is how it could have arose’. Well, again “Serial Passage” is not inconsistent with such an evolution.

    Let’s not forget the numerous ‘coincidences’ that Sumner ignores too (WIV working on a version of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, the Covid-19 virus, breaks out at exactly the same city WIV is in, and numerous tampering of SARS-CoV with RaTG13 virus at the WIV, as published by the same, which looks awfully close to C-19 virus, save for a few tweaks).

    It’s indeed ‘case closed’ but the opposite of Sumner’s panda bear pandering: 95% chance that C-19 is a lab virus leak (from serial passage) and 5% it’s natural. The only way we’ll know if the 5% figure is correct is if the CCP WIV opens up their doors and files.

  41. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. March 2022 at 11:22

    Patrick, You said:

    “Scott, samples from Laos were set to WIV.”

    Who cares?

    “Anderson’s questionable about face?”

    David Baltimore changed his mind. Is he also part of the grand conspiracy?

    Ray, LOL, no amount of new information will cause you to change your mind. You just invent new conspiracy theories:

    “The WIV lab had an adjunct lab at the wet market. ”

    It never ends.

  42. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    7. March 2022 at 17:46

    SS:” Ray, LOL, no amount of new information will cause you to change your mind. You just invent new conspiracy theories: “The WIV lab had an adjunct lab at the wet market. ””

    Do you read my posts? No. If you did, I told you that if China finds an intermediate animal host, I will accept that SARS-CoV-2 is natural.

    As for the WIV wet market adjunct lab, it’s based on photographs of the same. Perhaps the photos were doctored but I’ve not seen that, and, China has destroyed the wet market so we’ll never know.

    Sorry about calling you an idiot. I meant to say you’re a fool.

  43. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    8. March 2022 at 07:07

    How I read your essay——-the Chinese are as guilty, maybe more so, than if there was a lab leak. Maybe that is why you have said it is worse for their image than if it were aleak. They covered up—-that is the key—and they permitted a marketplace to exist that has had been a source of breakout viruses for——a “long time”.

    Sidebar question. I have not been able to find any website that has shown global deaths for 2020 —-let alone 2021. But there are plenty that estimate excess deaths—-which seems ridiculous without the baseline.

    There is a site called Knoema—-it seems new—-that claims it uses actual data (not projections from 2019). The global crude death rate per thousand in 2020 is virtually unchanged from prior 4-5 years. Are you aware of any such site?

    Are cases now almost all omicron? The daily case rate in US appears likely to hit its all time low within a week or two. Death rate supposedly has a 3 week lag ——-don’t think it will hit all time low but close. Since supposedly each new variant is weaker this appears to be over.—-until next Asian virus shows up.

    Finally, your analysis on Ocean County and NJ was embarrassing. In so many ways. You must know that standard error is larger when sample size is lower. So you cherry picked Ocean County that has 37% registered GOP.

    I live in the most GOP county—-Morris County. It has a a high vaccination rate. Why not pick it? These statistical errors (not taking SE and sample size into account) were discovered in famous experiments done in UK in late 19th century.

    Even for a junk blog entry ——this was really bad. I don’t have the energy to write the 400 word summary of what is wrong.

    I really do sometimes believe you right these to troll some of your readers, because for sure, I know you are not dumb.

  44. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    8. March 2022 at 10:06

    Michael, You said:

    “So you cherry picked Ocean County that has 37% registered GOP.”

    LOL, please tell me you don’t judge the political stance of a county by looking at registered GOP voters. That’s violating poly science 101. Trump won Ocean by 2 to 1; it’s by far NJ’s most GOP county. Biden won Morris.

    And there are about 15 to 20 million excess deaths over the past couple years:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00104-8

  45. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    10. March 2022 at 06:47

    Who cares what samples were sent to the virology lab in the city with the first cases?

    Most people care.

    I don’t like assuming that you are arguing in bad faith but that response settles it for me, case closed 2.

  46. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. March 2022 at 09:19

    Patrick, “Most people care”

    OK, cite 3 prominent virologists who care.

  47. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    10. March 2022 at 11:51

    I didn’t say prominent virologists. I have a low opinion of prominent virologists who don’t want to lose funding of virology as well as a low opinion of economists who ignore self-interest. I don’t care about your appeals to authority.

    If the virus really came from Laos, why were the first people who got sick by the lab where the samples were sent? To not care about that is ridiculous.

    How did it get to Wuhan?

  48. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    10. March 2022 at 11:55

    Ray Lopez, don’t hold your breath for him to explain how it spilled over from bats in Laos to people in Wuhan with no evidence of spillover anywhere between

  49. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. March 2022 at 09:43

    Patrick, OK, most plumbers and truck drivers agree with you, but virologists agree with me? Fine, I won’t argue with that.

    As for your “explain this” questions, they are so absurd I’m not going to even comment.

  50. Gravatar of Don Don
    18. March 2022 at 17:21

    The emotional content of some of these posts is striking. It’s a shame. I have to wonder whether some of emotional attachment is the result of the early 2020 effort to suppress the lab leak hypothesis in the US press. As I recall, Fauci and the major media outlets dismissed the idea as a conspiracy theory even as Fauci seriously considered the idea in private discussions with select scientists. Evidence for lab leak is then evidence against Anthony Fauci and the US press.

    However, Fauci and the press were wrong to suppress debate even if subsequent evidence shows that the virus did not escape from a lab. Such behavior poisons the well. Conspiracy theories flourish in low trust environments. When we lose trust in experts, public policy suffers.

  51. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. March 2022 at 08:06

    Don Yes, the attempt by Fauci to shut down debate was wrong. But far worse was the Trump administration’s dishonest attempt to use an unfounded lab leak theory as a political weapon against China. This and other similar moves (China trade war, etc.) have helped to push China into the arms of Russia. The Chinese people respected the US when I visited back in the 1990s. Now that respect is almost all gone.

  52. Gravatar of Patrick Tehan Patrick Tehan
    31. March 2022 at 03:27

    Most people agree with me, not just plumbers and truck drivers. I’m fine with being on their side. At least they’re not motivated to say anything to keep the funding of their work going.

  53. Gravatar of Andrew Berman Andrew Berman
    1. April 2022 at 14:56

    I note Kristian Anderson is mentioned multiple times here, including this little bon-mot:
    “That’s when Andersen made a suggestion that surprised Bloom. He said he was a screener at the preprint server, which gave him access to papers that weren’t yet public. He then offered to either entirely delete the preprint or revise it “in a way that would leave no record that this had been done.” ”

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2022/03/the-virus-hunting-nonprofit-at-the-center-of-the-lab-leak-controversy

Leave a Reply