US Department of Energy report says coronavirus most likely came from lab leak

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three years after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Wuhan, China, a classified report from the U.S. Department of Energy says the coronavirus most likely came from a laboratory leak in China.

But answers about where the virus came from are still not definite.

Authorities familiar with the Energy Department’s report say it was a “low confidence” intelligence assessment, meaning the information that was obtained by the government is not reliable enough to make a definitive judgment as to whether the virus escaped a laboratory or if it originated in the wild.

“We need to find out exactly how the coronavirus, the COVID virus, hit the world,” said Gary Locke, former U.S. ambassador to China. “If it came from an animal, we need to be prepared, and we need to beef up our public health response.”

U.S. intelligence officials remain divided on the origin of COVID-19, which is responsible for the deaths of more than 7 million people across the world.

A report from 2021 found that four agencies in the U.S. intelligence community had assessed with low confidence that the virus jumped from animals to humans in the wild. But that report said a fifth agency in the intelligence community had moderate confidence that the pandemic was the result of a laboratory accident.

Scientists say that uncovering the origin of the COVID-19 virus can help prevent the next global pandemic. But local infectious disease specialist Dr. Mohammed Reza says the origin is not as critical to the general public, who he urges to still take the necessary precautions.

″I don’t know that it matters because it’s a virus,” Reza said.

Reza says what is important for the general public now is taking steps to protect against infection and death.

“So using those tools that are available to us now that we didn’t have a couple of years ago — the vaccine first and foremost, the antiviruses, as well — those will help us if you are infected with this virus. Now, we have those things, and we can take to protect us to not have that severe outcome,” Reza said.

U.S. officials say, if they can definitively prove that COVID-19 was created in a laboratory, they intend on holding China accountable. Some senators are calling for public hearings following the Department of Energy’s assessment.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.