BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

PANDEMIC COVER-UP?

November 26, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 2 Episode 24
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
PANDEMIC COVER-UP?
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
PANDEMIC COVER-UP?
Nov 26, 2020 Season 2 Episode 24
Dana Lewis

Many experts don't think Corona virus started in The Wuhan Market. 

Some think it was a virus that escaped from a lab in Wuhan run now by the military. 
Others think it had "natural" origins but broke out months before the end of 2019.

And. we need those answers to understand where the next pandemic could start, as well as the increased dangers of a biological attack.

On this Back Story Dana Lewis talks to Former Deputy Sec. of Defense Andy Weber, and virus hunter Dr. Daniel Lucey.

Show Notes Transcript

Many experts don't think Corona virus started in The Wuhan Market. 

Some think it was a virus that escaped from a lab in Wuhan run now by the military. 
Others think it had "natural" origins but broke out months before the end of 2019.

And. we need those answers to understand where the next pandemic could start, as well as the increased dangers of a biological attack.

On this Back Story Dana Lewis talks to Former Deputy Sec. of Defense Andy Weber, and virus hunter Dr. Daniel Lucey.

Ex Pres. trump:

The virus that we're talking about having to do, you know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat as the heat comes in. Typically that will go away in April. I've spoken to a president Xi , they're getting it more and more under control. So , uh, I think that's a problem. That's going to go away when you have 15 people. And the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. Uh, that's a pretty good job. We've done. It's going to disappear one day. It's like a miracle. It will disappear. And from our shores, we've, you know, it could get worse before it gets better. Could maybe go away. We'll see what happens. You have to become, it'll go away. It will go away. You stay calm and we'll go away. We need a little separation until such time. As this goes away, it's going to go away. It's going to go away. It will go away. You know, w you know, it is going away.

Speaker 2:

The number of new infections has risen to nearly 70,000 per day. The highest rate since late July, we're in a really dangerous point. And unfortunately, we're here, partly because of our own making nationwide millions of Americans are suffering from pandemic fatigue, tired of masks, social distancing, homeschooling, and working from home tonight and all out battle against a surgeon, virus, teams of air force nurses deployed to overwhelmed hospitals in North Dakota, in El Paso, the national guard, helping out in morgues, running out of space. The chances are that you will see a surge super imposed upon a surge.

Dana Lewis:

We've heard the projections, the projections are that if nothing fundamentally changes between now and , uh, beginning of February, we're up, we're likely to lose up to 400 total of 400,000 lives, another 150,000 lives. And , uh, so it's real.

Dana Lewis - Host Back Story :

Hi everyone. And welcome to backstory reporting from London. I'm Dana Lewis. As I speak to you at the end of November, 2020, according to John Hopkins, university of medicine, worldwide, 60 million, 465,000 people have caught coronavirus more than 1 million, 422,000 people have died. Economies around the world have been shut down. Hospitals overwhelmed. So many families have lost loved ones. Now you would think by now we know exactly where this start , how did it begin? Was it a bath in a market in Wuhan China? You may be surprised to know that as unlikely. Now, the market part, was it a laboratory maybe? Was it because scientists were experimenting with the virus, something called gain of function? Many people think so. Did the Chinese know about this before December 31st, 2019 when the world health reported It? No doubt was the first death reported by China really on January 11th. No, you were about to hear an incredibly enlightening interview with two experts. One of them who knows about militarized biological programs past and future threats and lessons. We better learn from this and another, a virus Hunter of sorts, an expert on pandemic outbreaks. The interviews left me with more questions than answers, and I'm sure that will be the same for you, but sometimes that's where you need to go to begin to understand and cut through some of the misinformation. What are the origins of COVID-19 on this backstory? All right . I want to introduce you first of all, to Andy Weber, who is in , uh , in Washington, he's a former assistant secretary of defense for chemical, biological and nuclear defense programs. And he is now at the center for strategic risks. Hi and welcome. Hi Dana . Thank you. And dr. Daniel Lucy also in Washington is a senior scholar with the O'Neill Institute for national and global health law. He is also an adjunct professor of medicine, infectious diseases at Georgetown , uh , and an expert on outbreaks and pandemics. Daniel. Thanks for doing this.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

My pleasure. Thank you. So,

Dana Lewis - Host Back Story :

I mean, we have some good news today, just to start off with , uh, here in the UK, while I speak to you from London, that we have another vaccine , uh, you know , that was developed with Oxford university in addition to Pfizer. And Moderna , uh , are we about to come out of this dark tunnel? Daniel? Can I start with you?

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

I hope so. I hope so, but it's a long trip until we reached the end of the tunnel for our countries, the UK for us, but certainly a longer tunnel for much of the developing world.

Andy Weber - CSR:

Yeah, I agree. Well, first of all, here in the U S I mean, we're at peak rates, deaths are , I've never been higher. Uh, so it's, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We need to redouble our efforts to use proven methods like wearing masks and closing bars and , uh , you know , staying six feet apart because we know that works and we need to bend the curve down here, but having a vaccine available for the first, for the healthcare workers, the first line defenders against this pandemic will be amazing. And I'm told that that could be as early as , uh , as , uh , December

Dana Lewis:

Dr. Lucy. I was, I was watching an interview that you did in January , uh, when this all started and you said, you, we , we should be concerned, but not overly frightened. Should we in fact have been quite frightened because we're now at 1.4 million deaths and climbing,

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

I think we should always be frightened. Every applique I've gone to , uh , I'm very frightened myself. Uh , when I worked with many patients with Ebola in 2014, Syria in Liberia, often when I did interviews, I said, aren't you afraid? I said, of course, I'm afraid if I'm not afraid I shouldn't be here. So I'd say, eh, of all those interviews in January of , if I said , uh , we shouldn't be overly frightened. I agree. They shouldn't, you should never be overly frightened because that paralyzed that's paramedic fear. We need catalytic fear. So yes, you should always be frightened. Um, yes, we should have been more, more catalytic fear. We should have taken many more actions in January than , than we did .

Dana Lewis:

What do we know now? I mean, we , we know that one of the first patients , um, has been traced back to November the 17th, 2019. So we are almost year on, you know, a year into this. Do we know where COVID-19 began? And do we know how it began, Andy, do you want to take a first run at that?

Andy Weber - CSR:

Sure. I mean, the , the sad news is no, we don't know the answer to that. And that is a critical question. Um, I'm not convinced the Chinese know the answer to that, but they have not been very cooperative in working with the international community to get to that answer. Um, you know, there are different series of how it started, but , uh, we should be able to determine the origin of this virus, if we're going to be successful in preventing the next one.

Dana Lewis:

Why are the Chinese not being cooperative? I mean, why have they not come clean? What are they, are they hiding something?

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

So this was very controversial. I pursued it from the very beginning in terms of origin, since there , the night of December the 30th, when I first saw the report , uh , from the ophthalmology physician who , uh , was one of the first eight whistle blowers , uh , dr. Lee who died on February the sixth, I believe seventh . And trying to , um, so first I would say that , um, I think to some extent the attorneys have been cooperative, so that's not , uh , the mainstream of view here in the , in the United States. But I think that , uh, particularly their , uh, healthcare providers , uh, have been in were early in January , uh, cooperative in terms of trying to get the truth out to the world as best they could, including those first eight healthcare workers, including dr . Lee who died . Um, and , uh, who was brought in the police office in December , uh, after he said, well, there seem to be contagious, starts like pneumonia. Uh, but there are a number of very, very important , uh , uh, publications, actually quite a few from the mainland and from Hong Kong , uh, early on , uh, about what was going on , uh, in terms of the earliest cases. Uh, and I've mentioned two in particular, January 24th, a Friday in Atlanta , uh, based in the UK, as you know, and then that the new internal medicine, the following Wednesday, January the 29th, those are the points of departure that I mentioned, but there are other publications as well, subsequently, including by the China's CDC in Beijing, in the Chinese CDC, weekly publication, which is like the U S CDC , uh , morbidity and mortality mortality.

Dana Lewis:

And why, why is that relevant? Sorry.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

Yeah, it's relevant because , uh , there's specific , uh, data that's presented in all of those references that I just mentioned, mentioned as well as quite a few others , uh , that I've tracked and written about repeatedly on the infectious disease society of America science speaks website about initial cases and the , um , church for the origins search, meaning in humans and animals and in the environment. So I think there is objective data and most recently, and I think most importantly , uh, is the , uh, publication on the who website this month, the first week of this month, around the fifth or 6th of November , uh , what's called the terms of reference for the who China and joint mission. The second one to go , uh , to search for the origins , uh, of the, of the , um, of the virus. And it's now the date here on this document is 31, July, 2020. It only came out this month because the terms of reference for this investigation had to be agreed upon by China , uh , as well as who and ,

Dana Lewis:

And where , where does that lead us? I mean, it was a delay in terms of reference because the Chinese didn't want to go somewhere.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

They certainly didn't say that in a document, but , uh, uh, to my view , um, they provide information here and this documents nine pages on page five in particular, that hasn't appeared anywhere else before. And it's in my view, an important incremental addition of objective data, at least according to China , um, that , that we haven't had before. And so I created a timeline of what we've learned in when we've learned it , uh, going back to, to , to end of December early January. But this document says, for example, what I think is important , um, most important is that there were 124 laboratory confirmed human cases of SARS coronavirus to causing COVID-19 in the month of December and of those 124 , 119 were in move-on , but five were not. And move on. They said they were in Hubei province, you know, where we'll have the capital and, and, and elsewhere, but they don't say where elsewhere. So the important point is 124 cases. That's many more in December than we ever , uh , heard about from China previously in January. They said in the last

Dana Lewis:

It does . And if I could just jump in, it doesn't seem like a lot of cases to me as a layman , uh, considering how many cases we have now, but you obviously feel that that was a significant number that should have been reported worldwide immediately.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

I'd emphasize that it was December, December 15th . There were these 124 laboratory cases, confirmed cases in who buy products . Most of them move on. What they don't say is how many were there in November, because you mentioned it's been reported by Josephine ma her byline in the South China morning, post and mid mid-March that she saw an unpublished government, a report of an investigation of the outbreak that said that the earliest known case, probably not the first, but the earliest known was November 17th. And that there was one to five cases every day after that in November, and then quite a few more in December. So I think that in fact, the origins go back quite some time, many months, perhaps more than a year. Um, and the reason I say that in is because the first we heard of this virus, everyone agrees on this. Uh , as far as I can tell , uh, it was already fully adapted to our species, to humans, to be able to be transmitted from person to person , uh , through the air and perhaps other ways, but through the air very, very efficiently. And that, to me means it was impossible if it was naturally occurring to have begun in December in that seafood market in move-on not possible.

Dana Lewis:

All right , Daniel, let me just bring in Andy here, Andy. Thanks for being patient. That certainly leads us down, you know, as a reporter that just tells me that the Chinese government was covering up , um, and raises , uh, in, in huge , uh , capital letters that the Wu Han market probably wasn't the source. Where do you line up on it? Andy?

Andy Weber - CSR:

I don't think we have , uh, any , uh, any proof that the market was the source of , uh , the original source of this virus. Um, a lot of the evidence and the samples that were taken at the market apparently have been destroyed. What dr. Lucy says is very important. Um, indeed if this started months before December , um, in humans and , and, and how did, how did it accelerate so quickly and spread so efficiently? Um, you know, these are important questions. Now we do know that for example, local officials in , uh , in [inaudible] were not forthcoming with the central government in Beijing initially. Uh, they sort of had a knee-jerk reaction of trying to cover up the outbreak and its severity. Um, that's unfortunate, but it will take a lot of scientific effort and I'd be interested , uh, where dr. Lucy is today on the , on the, you know , theoretical origin of , of this particular outbreak. Uh , what does he think was the original source? You're going to ask him

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

Dan , so I'll try to stay [inaudible] first. Let me just say, I disagree a little bit with , uh , on the one hand that, that, that, that the local officials had covered up the events , uh, and then the Beijing officials didn't know them. I think Beijing knew everything from the beginning December, and I think there's a paper trail that can, that can support that. I realized that other distinguished people, as well as the NDA and others feel too otherwise if there was a cover up , but for me there wasn't , uh , but as far as the question, the MD , uh , as well at first , also I agree with Andy a hundred percent, there's this supermarket, it was never the source of the epidemic. And I, and I wrote that on Saturday, January the 25th on the infectious disease, Saturday medical website, it was picked up by science magazine, John Cohen. He sent it out Sunday night, January the 26th to ninth , stay around the world. Um, that the market was probably not the source and subsequently on May 23rd, one day after the beginning of the very important two sessions. And you will two sessions in China in Beijing this year , uh, delayed because of COVID , uh, uh, director general of the China CDC in Beijing, George Google golf, who said the market was not the source. It was just another victim. So let me stop there and then try to answer Andy's question. Uh, w w what was the, what was the source of the epidemic? I think clearly, I don't know. We don't know. I have strong opinions and I'm still trying to gather data.

Dana Lewis:

I , I don't want to cut you off because your , your , your answer is so important, but I can see you're , you're not coming straight out and saying what you say that the main, like a detective , uh , you know, on the murder case, you're not saying who the main suspect is, but I think can we just come to it? It seems to be that there's growing consensus and has been for some time that did it . It was the Wu Han laboratory. You agree with that? And that they may have been doing something called gain of function. Will you, will you address that? Both of you? No , go ahead.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

Oh , yeah . Just, just nudge me off the cliff. Okay. So first of all, I don't agree Dana that , uh , the , uh, that the evidence is , uh , going towards it , that the source was the , uh, uh, uh , laboratory either the Institute of virology , uh, uh, headed by a sham Lee , she , or by the, by the , the local CDC lab , uh , which was close to the market closer than the Wolf hunt Institute. I don't think so. There's been a lot of , uh , talk about that and , uh , certainly very high ranking people in the U S government , uh , have said that there's enormous evidence and quote that that was the case, but they haven't presented it. I haven't seen it. I don't believe it. I believe

Dana Lewis:

That the source, what do you think it was ?

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

So I think it was a naturally occurring , uh, pandemic, a naturally occurring , uh, uh, outbreak where somebody came the epidemic, the pan epidemic , and now the devastating economic and public health , uh , uh, pandemic , uh , the worst in the , you know, a hundred, 101 years, I mean , two years. So I think it was naturally current. And that's why I think it began many months earlier than December, because it takes many months for a virus to fully adapt to our species and a virus that presumably comes from an animal or more than one animal to infect

Dana Lewis:

Our species. You mentioned become highly contagious through the air. It sounds very innocent than on your part, any D do you, do you also discount the Wu Han lab and gain of function experiments? No, I don't.

Andy Weber - CSR:

Yeah. And dr. Lucy has studied this deeply, and I'm very interested in his view on this, but , um, in 2016 , uh, scientists from the Ruan Institute of virology , um, published a work they had done the prior year on so-called gain of function, experiments.

Dana Lewis:

You explain , gain a function where you talk about it, because most people don't know what they are

Andy Weber - CSR:

On coronavirus . It's essentially , um, working in the laboratory , um, often with animals to try to , uh, evolve the virus. So it transmits more easily between animals in order to, in theory, to be able to prevent a spillover event from animals to humans. Personally, think that the risks of doing this type of research , um, far outweigh any potential benefit.

Dana Lewis:

What makes you think it was gained a function before I go back over to dr. Lucy?

Andy Weber - CSR:

Well, it's one of those data points that we don't have. I mean, were they continuing to do this type of gain of function work beyond 2015? I don't know. Um, I don't know the answer to that. I think it's one of the questions that , uh, is fairly easy to answer as well as, you know, what type of animals were they using in the laboratory, et cetera. But I also don't quite understand what, what exactly is meant by naturally occurring. Um, you know, I'm not saying that this was a genetically engineered by a weapon. I think that has been totally discounted, but they could use natural methods of evolving it from generation to generation in animals , uh, doing what they would consider legitimate public health research. I mean, the, the us national institutes of health that Tony Fauci runs is currently funding gain of function research in the Netherlands and elsewhere that's on, on the flu virus, the risk of, of creating , uh , a super flu and then having it escape from a laboratory, either through a worker getting infected and taking it home , um, or a release into the environment, I think far outweighs the medical benefit of conducting this type of research.

Dana Lewis:

It was, it was banned in the U S and in 2014 and then?

Andy Weber - CSR:

Hello. There was a , there was a moratorium on this type of research. Um, after the , uh, the Dutch scientist was attempting to publish a paper purporting to have made , uh, the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus , uh, more easily transmissible , uh, in an experiment with ferrets. Um, but that moratorium was lifted. Um, I believe in 2017. So such research continues to be funded by the United States government. And I, I just think it's an unjustifiable , uh , risk.

Dana Lewis:

Oh , Lucy , could you answer Andy's question as to, you know, he's not sure what you meant by natural , um, and why, why do you think it wasn't gain of function potentially,

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

But by natural, I mean, the same as for SARS severe acute respiratory syndrome from China, one province in the Southeast where the first case was thought to be November the 16th, 2002, then into 2003, as we know, or the middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus pneumonia that , uh, was first , uh , found retrospectively in a , in a hospital, in as dr. Jordan and April of 2012, and then subsequently mostly in Saudi Arabia. Uh, so most viruses , uh, NIPA virus, Bola they're , they're naturally occurring. They come from an animal species to human species for the most part. Um, what do you have you mentioned about the experiments with a bird flu called age five and one , uh , that's that's different to me , uh , it was originally called Julius research of concern, but as basically a gain of function, it means that the virus H five N one, in this case gained the function of being able to spread through the air from Farah to ferret, which are mammals. So by implication, it could spread through the air between humans, but I'd like to emphasize that the United States has done a lot of documented public information, publicly available information , uh, uh, gain a function like research as well. Uh, we've I think probably just made more made it public , uh , more so than other countries, but I'd say very importantly, it wasn't only the Dutch at Erasmus medical center in Rotterdam, but it was the Americans, the dr . [inaudible] lab in the United States that also did in parallel at the same time and published at the same time in premier journals, science and natures , uh, in 2012, this , uh , basically a gain of function research for H five, then one being able to be spread from fair to fair in the laboratory. We w we did it, the Dutch did it. They were both funded by the U S uh, NIH, dr. Fowchee Institute, the national Institute of allergy and infectious disease. Uh , let me just stop there.

Dana Lewis:

All right. So I appreciate both of you have limited time here. So I just want to try to come to where we are now, and that is Andy. Look, you have a tremendous background, more than people understand in terms of trying to stop biological weapons, along with chemical, along with nuclear attacks, you've just recently written a editorial along with Christine parts of more in the LA times where you said biological attacks are now more appealing than ever that the lesson coming out of this, which I would have thought would be, you know, biological experimentation gain of function probably is lost on rogue governments and terrorist organizations, which may now see biological weapons , uh, as something that they could introduce , uh, understanding , uh, how they've crippled economies and, and killed tens of thousands of people. You have a real concern, whatever the final , uh, trail is on how this virus started , uh, that it puts us in a much more dangerous place.

Andy Weber - CSR:

Oh, absolutely. And in our , uh , LA times piece, we spell this out, but basically our adversaries can watch , uh, the fumbling response that the United States has had to this biological event. And, and imagine if it had been a , uh, a bio-engineered weapon , uh, with 30% mortality, instead of two to 3% mortality, it could be much, much worse than what we're experiencing now, but our response has been so fumbling, I'm concerned that we send the message of , of , uh , vulnerability and that those who would wish to do us harm will see that as an opportunity to pursue the deliberate use of biological weapons against us. So that's the , uh, that's the chilling effect, but on the positive side , uh, our response, especially the scientific and medical response has accelerated modern , uh, really , uh , game changing technologies for early warning and detection and , uh, medical countermeasures therapeutics, vaccines that are now being proven for the first time in humans that will make us much better prepared to prevent or nip in the bud the next potential pandemic

Dana Lewis:

Biden administration. Um, do you think, and I know you have some input there, will they overhaul , uh, and dramatically change the America's ability to have enhanced preparedness as you, as you termed it in that editorial?

Andy Weber - CSR:

Oh, absolutely. That's something that we at the council on strategic risks are advising , um, that the next administration, the Biden administration , uh, increased the resourcing and level of effort and public private partnerships to really create a system of robust pandemic prevention, early warning and rapid counter measures . So we can make this the last pandemic and in the process significantly reduced the threat of , uh , biological weapons,

Dana Lewis:

Specifically, dr. Lucy, thanks for being patient there . The last word to you, sir,

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

What I'd like to say is very sobering, which is that since March of this year , uh, after I'd gone to Shanghai, to Hong Kong, to Cairo for COVID-19, I began to have the sense that something else is coming or something else that's already here. And that's what I've been looking for. Ever since that time, I hope I'm wrong, but I think that is the operational day-to-day , uh, leaning forward focus that, that , that I take. And I hope , uh, uh, others take, in other words, what's next is already here, but we just haven't recognized it yet. And that's my driving philosophy after many years of going to many epidemics every year overseas, since 2003. Uh, and it's, it's the it's, what's on the wall. The final section of the Smithsonian museum of natural history here in DC, there's a large , uh , exhibit on epidemics, viral epidemics that come from animals. I proposed it in 2014 and I worked on it and it opened 2018 till 2022. Now we're going to have a section on COVID. Uh, it's, it's what I believe with my heart , heart, and soul. And it's , it's how I'm going to pursue the rest of my career. I really think that something is out there and we need to find it and act much better than we did with regard to SARS coronavirus, to just stop it from becoming a pandemic it's already out there.

Dana Lewis:

You don't have evidence that something is out there, but the, the reasonable expectation is it's just a matter of time till the next one comes along.

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

Okay . Yes . If I had evidence, I would, I would share it with the MD and you and everybody else, but I've actually physically gone to places looking for it. And the past couple of months, as well as, you know, internet through friends around the world, et cetera, I haven't found it. I hope it doesn't exist, but I believe that it does. And the attitude we should have another virus. Oh, it could be a virus. It could be a bacteria. It could be a prion. It could be some, some other pathogen . Yes. I'm thinking in terms of infectious diseases.

Dana Lewis:

And have you seen evidence of an infectious disease after COVID-19 another one?

Dr. Daniel Lucey:

Well, they're , they're occurring all around the world. There is one particular one that I went to search for. I didn't find it, but the week after I left, it was found, but it was not, it was a very small number of people. It wasn't an outbreak . So as long as it doesn't cause an outbreak fine. Um, but if anything, it just reinforced my sense of this is what we should be doing, or at least what I should be doing actively looking, including going on the ground.

Dana Lewis:

Thank you for explaining that to dr. Daniel, Lucy from Georgetown and Andy Weber , the former assistant secretary for defense, for chemical, biological, and biological and nuclear defense programs. Thank you so much. Both of you. Thank you. Dana world health organization, officials see an international team of scientists will be traveling again to China in due time to continue an investigation

Speaker 4:

Into the origins of the Corona virus that causes COVID-19 a team was there over the summer discussing which studies had to take place for the Chinese government, the who officials said, they look forward to making progress on the investigation, not only into animal origins of the virus, but also into how the virus can jump from speeding . The species. The real question is quote, the origin species barrier. Where did that occur? And that is still unknown, said an official. I would suggest we read between the lines and investigation. That's happening very slowly, very late. And one wonders. If the Chinese government will allow investigators to really uncover everything about how this virus appeared and where I'm Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening to backstory, please subscribe and share this podcast. And if you'd like to be a sponsor, drop us a line. I'll talk to you again soon.

Speaker 7:

[inaudible] .