Reported by ELEANOR BARTOW, INVESTIGATIVE EDITOR | May 28, 2021
The wife of a Wuhan lab researcher working on coronaviruses died of what appeared to be COVID-19 in December 2019, the leader of a State Department investigation under the Trump administration told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
It would have been an early clue that the virus could be transmitted among humans, yet Chinese authorities said that the virus was not transmissible for at least a month after they knew it was, allowing it to spread, according to David Asher, who led an investigation on COVID-19’s origins and served in the State Department under Democrat and Republican presidents.
China reported in mid-January that the virus was transmissible among humans.
An individual who worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology at the time provided the information on the lab researcher’s wife dying, according to Asher.
A Wall Street Journal story on Sunday reported that three Wuhan lab workers were hospitalized with COVID-like symptoms in November 2019, before the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Dec. 8. The story’s main findings, that WIV workers had possible COVID-19 symptoms in fall 2019, before the first confirmed case, were already in a State Department statement on COVID-19’s origins released in the last days of the Trump administration.
The lab workers appear to have been more likely to have had COVID-19 than the flu, Asher said.
“How many normal people in their 30s-40s get so sick from influenza that they have to be hospitalized? Lab workers, I am told, are almost certainly getting flu shots.’
“Moreover, what are the odds that several workers — who happen to be the researchers on enhancing the pathogenicity of COV RaTG13 and associated COVS all fall very sick together?” Asher noted, referring to coronaviruses.
China has blocked interviewing the previously ill researchers at the WIV, the January State Department statement said.
WIV researchers were studying viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, but China has blocked access to records of such research being conducted at the WIV, according to the State Department’s statement in January.
A senior State Department official told The Washington Post that the Biden administration does not dispute the information in the department’s Jan. 15 statement, produced during the Trump administration, but that it did not represent a balanced representation because it was focused on the lab leak and not other possible origins of the virus. On Wednesday, the Biden administration called for the U.S. intelligence community to redouble its efforts to discover information on the origins of COVID-19 and report back to him in 90 days.
On Tuesday, a Chinese delegate to a World Health Organization assembly announced that China had completed its part of an investigation into COVID-19’s origins and now the focus should turn to other countries.