White House pushes for independent investigation on COVID-19 origins

The White House on Monday said that officials cannot draw a conclusion about the origins of COVID-19 without an independent investigation and more data from China.

“We are and we have repeatedly called for the [World Health Organization] WHO to support an expert-driven evaluation of the pandemic’s origins that is free from interference and politicization,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine House adjourns for recess without passing bill to extend federal eviction ban Hunter Biden blasts those criticizing price of his art: 'F--- 'em' MORE told reporters at a briefing Monday.

Psaki also insisted that officials would not leap “ahead of an actual international process. We don’t have enough data and information to jump to a conclusion at this point in time.”

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Psaki was asked repeatedly about a new Wall Street Journal report that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were so sick that they sought care in a hospital in November 2019. The report has fueled questions about whether the novel coronavirus may have originated in a lab leak scenario rather than coming from an animal, the latter of which scientists have believed was the most likely scenario.

Psaki said the White House has “no means” of confirming or denying The Wall Street Journal's report. She also would not comment on the reported source of the article being a U.S. intelligence report.

“It doesn’t mean we can draw a conclusion. We don’t have enough information to draw a conclusion about the origins. There is a need to look into a range of options. We need data, we need an independent investigation, and that’s what we’ve been calling for,” Psaki told reporters.

Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner under former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump PACs brought in over M for the first half of 2021 Chicago owes Trump M tax refund, state's attorney mounts legal challenge Biden hits resistance from unions on vaccine requirement MORE, said on CNBC on Monday that the amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to the lab scenario was growing. He also said it was unlikely the U.S. would ever know for certain that the virus came out of a lab if that indeed was the case.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Israeli president receives COVID-19 booster shot AstraZeneca CEO: 'Not clear yet' if boosters are needed MORE, the country's top infectious diseases expert who has cast doubt on the lab theory, said earlier this month that he was not convinced the disease developed in nature and that it should continue to be a subject of investigation.

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A WHO-led report issued earlier this year found that the coronavirus most likely jumped from animals to humans and labeled the lab leak theory “extremely unlikely.” The report was written jointly with Chinese scientists.

Still, the Biden administration and others have raised concerns about the independence of the report and the lack of access to data from China from the early days of the outbreak in 2019. The White House previously called for a new independent, expert-driven investigation led by the WHO.

When the report was released in March, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued a statement saying that WHO was not ruling out any theories on the virus’s origins and that the report was only the beginning of the quest to find the source of the virus.