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'I remember it very well': Fauci describes secret 2020 meeting about COVID origins

USA TODAY
June 2021

In the early days of the growing coronavirus outbreak that would soon become a pandemic, an elite group of international scientists gathered on a conference call to discuss a shocking possibility: The virus looked like it might have been engineered in a laboratory.

“I remember it very well,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview with me on Wednesday. “We decided on the call the situation really needed to be looked into carefully.”

The teleconference on Feb. 1, 2020, appears to have played a pivotal role in shaping the early views of several key scientists whose published papers and public statements contributed to the shutting down of legitimate discussion about whether a laboratory in Wuhan, China, might have ignited the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As a reporter who has spent a decade revealing hundreds of serious safety breaches at U.S. biological research labs, it has always seemed obvious to investigate whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a major coronavirus research center, possibly played a role given that the initial outbreak happened in the same city.

Yet for more than a year, those who publicly raised such questions were too often deemed a crackpot conspiracy theorist or a simpleton who just didn’t understand science.

It has only been in recent weeks that a growing list of high-profile scientists, intelligence officials and politicians – including President Joe Biden  – have publicly acknowledged the plausibility of a lab accident and pushed for rigorous investigation.

Perhaps that’s because the early concerns among key scientists – like the conference call on Feb. 1, 2020 – were kept private until now. 

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