April 21, 2020

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Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, theories have swirled online about its source. Many early posts claimed the virus originated in a Chinese lab as a bioweapon.

PolitiFact and other fact-checkers debunked those conspiracies. It’s still impossible that the virus was somehow created by scientists. But there is new reporting that suggests the virus might have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported that officials at the United States Embassy in Beijing sent two official warnings to Washington about safety problems in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Yahoo News published a similar story on April 14. A day later, Fox News cited anonymous sources to report that the researchers at the Wuhan institute may have been studying the novel coronavirus, and that patient zero worked at the lab.

“There is increasing confidence that the COVID-19 outbreak likely originated in a Wuhan laboratory, though not as a bioweapon but as part of China’s attempt to demonstrate that its efforts to identify and combat viruses are equal to or greater than the capabilities of the United States,” the network wrote.

The media reports emphasize that there is still no conclusive proof that the coronavirus came from the lab. But they present new information about the potential source of the pandemic, so we wanted to review publicly available evidence about the source and spread of the coronavirus — and what is still unproven.

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Cuomo accurately says that countries that reopened saw an increase in coronavirus infections

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ claim about obesity being the No. 1 risk factor for COVID-19 needs context. Read the fact-check»

Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at amahadevan@poynter.org or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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