Solving The Mystery Of The Pandemic's Origin Story

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Statues along a street are seen with masks placed on them as a WHO mission visits Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. (Ng Han Guan/AP)
Statues along a street are seen with masks placed on them as a WHO mission visits Wuhan in central China's Hubei province. (Ng Han Guan/AP)

Scientists investigating the pandemic still can't pinpoint the exact origin of the coronavirus that caused it. The WHO is poised to report on its search — but some are skeptical about their conclusions.


Joseph B. McCormick and Susan P. Fisher-Hoch, professors of Epidemiology, Human Genetics & Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Authors of “Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC - Tracking Ebola and the World's Deadliest Viruses."
Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Former NSC official during Clinton administration and adviser to the WHO on human genome editing. (@JamieMetzl)

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Alison Young, investigative reporter. Professor of Public Affairs Reporting and director of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Washington Program. (@alisonannyoung)

From The Reading List

AP: "WHO report says animals likely source of COVID" — "A joint WHO-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy obtained by The Associated Press."

MIT Technology Review: "No one can find the animal that gave people Covid-19" — "More than a year after covid-19 began, no food animal has been identified as a reservoir for the pandemic virus. That’s despite efforts by China to test tens of thousands of animals, including pigs, goats, and geese, according to Liang Wannian, who leads the Chinese side of the research team. No one has found a “direct progenitor” of the virus, he says, and therefore the pandemic 'remains an unsolved mystery.'"

The Wall Street Journal: "How the WHO’s Hunt for Covid’s Origins Stumbled in China" — "China resisted international pressure for an investigation it saw as an attempt to assign blame, delayed the probe for months, secured veto rights over participants and insisted its scope encompass other countries as well, the Journal found."

USA Today Opinion: "Could an accident have caused COVID-19? Why the Wuhan lab-leak theory shouldn't be dismissed" — "As members of a World Health Organization expert team have made international headlines recently dismissing as 'extremely unlikely' the possibility that a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China, could have sparked the COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t stop thinking of the hundreds of lab accidents that are secretly occurring just in the United States."

This program aired on March 30, 2021.


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Jonathan is a producer/director at On Point.


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Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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