Sen. Kennedy vs. CDC Director Walensky On COVID: "A Lab-Based Origin Is One Possibility" | Video | RealClearPolitics

Sen. Kennedy vs. CDC Director Walensky On COVID: "A Lab-Based Origin Is One Possibility"

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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that it is possible for the COVID-19 virus to have "lab-based origins" after intense questioning under Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (HELP) hearing on Wednesday.

"What, in your opinion, was the origin of the virus?" Sen. John Kennedy asked the director.

"I don't believe I've seen enough data, individual data, for me to be able to comment on that," Walensky responded.


"What are the possibilities?" Kennedy asked.

"Certainly, the possibilities that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from--that have infected the population, SARS-CoV-1, MERS, generally come from an animal origin," Walensky said.

"Are there any other possibilities?" Kennedy followed up.

"Certainly, a lab-based origin is one possibility," Walensky relented.

Walensky declared on Wednesday that public health emergencies "are here to stay" in her opening statement to the subcommittee.

"Over the last 12 years the United States has faced four significant emerging infection disease threats: The H1N1 influenza pandemic, Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19," Walensky said. "We also confronted a drug overdose epidemic, with nearly 500,000 people dying from an opioid related overdose between 1999 and 2019. This increase continued into 2020 and appear to accelerate during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"These experiences show that public health emergencies are here to stay," Walensky added.

SEN. KENNEDY (R-LA): Okay. Last question, what, in your opinion, was the origin of the virus?

CDC DIRECTOR ROCHELLE WALENSKY: This has been studied by the WHO--

KENNEDY: --No, ma'am, I'm asking your opinion.

WALENSKY: I don't believe I've seen enough data, individual data, for me to be able to comment on that.

KENNEDY: What are the possibilities?

WALENSKY: Certainly, the possibilities that most coronaviruses that we know of are of origin from--that have infected the population, SARS-CoV-1, MERS, generally come from an animal origin and--

KENNEDY: --Are there any other possibilities?

WALENSKY: Certainly, a lab based origin is one possibility.

KENNEDY: Okay. Is the United States funding gain of function research?

WALENSKY: Not to my knowledge.

KENNEDY: Okay. Can you give an answer to that for me and let us know, let the committee know?

WALENSKY: Dr. Fauci would be the one who knows best and he testified last week.--

KENNEDY: --Dr. Fauci seems confused. I'm--I'm asking, with all due respect, I'm asking you to get us that information, where, throughout the world, including but not limited to the United States of America are--are we doing research on these viruses to make them contagious in order to study them? That's what I mean by gain of function.

WALENSKY: I understand. I understand. We certainly can have our staff look into this. I don't know that we have the access of labs across the world, just the ones that are funded here in the United States.

KENNEDY: Yeah, but you're the head of CDC. I bet if you--I bet you get your phone calls returned. Would you get us that information?

WALENSKY: I'd be happy to give you the information to the best of my ability.

KENNEDY: Okay, and I'm going to do a long--a complete album of my singing. I'll send you--I'll send you (INAUDIBLE)--

WALENSKY: --Will you sign it, please?

KENNEDY: Sure. Thank--thank you. Thank you both for being here. Thank you, Madam Chair.

MURRAY: Senator Baldwin.
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