Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday the former U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director's belief that the virus that causes COVID-19 escaped from a lab is his opinion, and not one shared by a majority of public health care experts.
Fauci who spoke during a regular White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing, was responding to comments by former U.S. president Donald Trump-appointed CDC director Robert Redfield.
FILE - Then-Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building in Washington, July 8, 2020.
In an interview, as part of a documentary on the U.S. news channel CNN, Redfield said it is his belief that the virus was created in a lab and escaped, not necessarily intentionally. He said it was his opinion, something he was allowed to have now that he is a private citizen.
When asked about the comments, Fauci said he was familiar with the comments and he said it was one of several theories as to the origin of the virus. He said he believes it is based on the idea that when the virus was first identified in late December of 2019, it seemed well adapted to transmission among the human population, suggesting it was adapted in the lab.
But Fauci said the explanation that most health professionals go by is that the virus had been circulating in China for several weeks, if not a month, before it was clinically recognized, giving it plenty of time to adapt to the human population.
When asked her thoughts on Redfield's theory, current CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she had no formal opinion on the origin of the virus. She referred to a study on the origin of the virus being conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and said she is looking forward to their thoughts on the issue.
In preliminary comments regarding the virus originating in a lab, leaders of the WHO study said they believed it was highly unlikely.