There has long been debate over the origin of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, with the WHO declaring it "extremely unlikely" that the virus leaked from a laboratory. Yet many remain unconvinced by the organization's official conclusion, which is that the virus simply jumped from a bat to another animal and then to a human, and a newly revealed report is adding fuel to the fire. The previously undisclosed US intelligence report, obtained by the Wall Street Journal, says that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology got sick in November 2019 "with symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness," and sought hospital care. The first confirmed case, according to China, was a Wuhan resident who got sick on Dec. 8, 2019, but sequencing indicates the virus likely started circulating weeks earlier. CNN's sources say that while current intelligence points to the virus originating naturally, that doesn't mean it couldn't have accidentally leaked from a lab.
A Trump administration-issued State Department fact sheet had previously reported the WIV researcher illnesses, but the details on the severity are new. It's still, however, not clear what the researchers were actually sickened with, and at least one source warns the answer on COVID's origin might never be known. Earlier this month, Sen. Rand Paul sparred with Dr. Anthony Fauci at a Senate hearing, accusing the NIH of funding the Wuhan lab, which then "juiced up" a coronavirus found in bats to create a virus capable of infecting humans, the Hill reports. Fauci replied that "the NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund 'gain of function research' in the Wuhan Institute," meaning the funding was not meant for research into superviruses created by humans. That doesn't mean, however, Fauci is 100% sure how COVID originated; in a shift, he said at an event this month he's "not convinced" it developed naturally and believes all possible origins need to be investigated, Fox News reports. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)