Researcher Argues Data Paints ‘Big Red Flashing Arrow’ Toward Wuhan Market as Covid-19 Origin

CNN reports on researcher Michael Worobey, "who specializes in tracing the genetic evolution of viruses," who has now found "considerable evidence that the virus arose in an animal, and did not start circulating until the end of 2019." One case especially stood out — that of a 41-year-old accountant who allegedly got sick on December 8, 2019 and who had no connection to the market. The case has been cited as evidence the pandemic must not have started at the market. Worobey found records that showed the man didn't become ill with Covid-19 until later in December and that his December 8 problem was related to his teeth. "This is corroborated by hospital records and a scientific paper that reports his COVID-19 onset date as 16 December and date of hospitalization as 22 December," Worobey wrote in a commentary in the journal Science. That would make a seafood vendor who worked at the market and who got sick December 11, 2019, the earliest documented case, Worobey said. Other research helped Worobey come up with a map of the earliest cases that clusters them all around the market. "That so many of the more than 100 COVID-19 cases from December with no identified epidemiologic link to Huanan Market nonetheless lived in its direct vicinity is notable and provides compelling evidence that community transmission started at the market," he wrote. "It tells us that there's a big red flashing arrow pointing at Huanan Market as the most likely place that the pandemic started," Worobey told CNN. "The virus didn't come from some other part of Wuhan and then get to Huanan market. The evidence speaks really quite strongly to the virus starting at the market and then leaking into the neighborhoods around the market...." The journal Science subjected Worobey's research to outside scrutiny before publishing it. Interestingly, Science also published a letter in May in which Worobey had joined 17 other scientists to urge the investigation of both the "natural origin" and "lab leak" theories. But now while he still believes the Chinese government should've investigated the lab leak theory, "holy smokes — is there a lot of evidence against it, and in favor of natural origin," Worobey tells CNN. And he's now telling the Los Angeles Times that his new research "takes the lab-leak idea almost completely off the table.... So many of the early cases were tied to this one Home Depot-sized building in a city of 11 million people, when there are thousands of other places where it would be more likely for early cases to be linked to if the virus had not started there." Or, as he explained his research to the Washington Post, "It becomes almost impossible to explain that pattern if that epidemic didn't start there." A virologist at Texas A&M University who was one of the coronavirus experts giving SARS-CoV-2 its name called Worobey's research "detailed and compelling," while a virologist at Tulane University also tells the Post the new research "shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that in fact the Huanan market was the epicenter of the outbreak."

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