The story of our times is the coronavirus pandemic. No issue is more important. COVID-19 has killed approximately 3.5 million people and infected more than 160 million others, while reshaping the global economy. Yet, we still don’t know how it really started. We may never know.
On Wednesday, the White House released an update from President Joe Biden concerning the U.S. government’s investigation into the origins of COVID-19. A series of recent reports revived the “lab-leak theory”—that is, the possibility that the virus accidentally escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology or one of its affiliated sites. And the White House clearly thought it was necessary to demonstrate its due diligence.
In March, according to the White House’s statement, President Biden asked National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to “task the Intelligence Community to prepare a report on their most up-to-date analysis of the origins of COVID-19, including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident.” To date, no one in the U.S. government is really sure.
According to the White House, the U.S. intelligence community has “coalesced around two likely scenarios”—though it isn’t entirely clear what those scenarios are. The statement attributed to President Biden is clumsily written, stating that “while two elements in the IC leans [sic] toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter—each with low or moderate confidence—the majority of elements do not believe there is sufficient information to assess one to be more likely than the other.”