Research Report: U.S. Responsible for Global Spread of COVID-19
December 30, 2021
By Intelligence & Alliance Think Tank (IATT) and Taihe Institute
Against the backdrop of a still dire global pandemic situation, some U.S. politicians have kept scapegoating China on COVID-19 origins tracing in an attempt to muddle the truth, cover up their responsibility for the pandemic fiasco, and undermine global anti-pandemic cooperation. Their moves and remarks have been widely questioned and criticized by the international community.
Data from multiple sources have shown that the United States is most likely the country where COVID-19 originated, and the country most responsible for the fast global spread of the virus. Its political manipulation of the disease has made the global anti-pandemic efforts particularly difficult and challenging.
The United States is to blame for the current messy pandemic situation. If it does not correct its mistakes, and start to work with others in the world's pandemic fight immediately, humanity is going to face even greater disasters.
I. Evidence indicating COVID-19 originated from the United States keeps showing up
The United States has attempted to cover up its misdeeds by shifting the blame to others even to this day. It has been busy politicizing origins tracing and smearing China, and has turned a deaf ear to questions from around the world. The country has become even more dubious as it has refused to release information on America's early cases and to undertake domestic investigation on COVID-19 origins.
The probe and analysis into the COVID-19 origins by authoritative agencies around the world, including those from the United States, have become increasingly clear along with the development of the pandemic. Evidence is also piling up, indicating that the United States, a country with the longest history of coronavirus research and the most advanced research capacity, could be the origin of the pandemic.
1. The timeline of the outbreak in the United States has been continuously backdated
According to media reports, the first COVID-19 case in the United States was confirmed on January 19, 2020 in a man who returned home in the U.S. state of Washington from travel.
But through deeper investigations, local governments in the United States have identified earlier infections and deaths from the disease.
Starting from March 2020, the Department of Health website of the U.S. state of Florida published records showing 171 patients had coronavirus symptoms or positive test results in January and February that year. The entire dataset disappeared from the website on May 4, 2020, only to return later in the evening without the column showing the date when those patients developed symptoms.
In an antibody testing study published on June 15, 2020, researchers with the U.S. National Institutes of Health analyzed more than 24,000 stored blood samples that were collected between Jan. 2 and March 18 that year.
According to the serology test theory, antibodies can be found about two weeks after a person being infected. In this study, the first positive sample came as early as Jan. 7, 2020 from a volunteer in the U.S. state of Illinois, suggesting the virus was present in the United States before mid-December in 2019, a month earlier than the first case officially reported in the country.
Besides, a research published on March 30, 2020 on the New England Journal of Medicine probed into 24 critically-ill patients in the U.S. city of Seattle. Those infected were identified by nine hospital intensive care units in the city between Feb. 24 and March 9 that year.
"None of the patients had recently traveled to a country with known transmission, such as China, South Korea, Iran, or Italy," said the case series.
"Genomic and epidemiologic analyses of sequenced virus RNA recovered in the western Washington region have shown that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 has been the result of local community transmission -- meaning that the source of infection cannot be traced back to a known exposure," it added.
The above findings coincide with a diachronic study of the private think tank, IATT, on the "patient zero" of COVID-19. IATT's report, titled Who is "Patient Zero," cited an article with the title of "Deadly Germ Research is Shut Down at Army Lab Over Safety Concerns," which was published in the New York Times on Aug. 5, 2019, and a study on COVID-19 origins based on big data modeling, which was published on Sept. 22 this year on ChinaXiv, an online pre-print platform operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The studies indicated that for 12 northeastern U.S. states, the possible dates of the first infection, with a probability of 50 percent, fall mostly between August and October 2019, while the earliest is April 26, 2019 on Rhode Island, and the latest is Nov. 30, 2019 in Delaware. All of the dates indicated by the data are earlier than Jan. 20, 2020, the officially announced date of the first confirmed case in the United States.
Researches have revealed that the spread of a virus is a complicated issue in a globalized world, and therefore, the global tracing of COVID-19 origins requires persistent efforts. Liu Lili, IATT's secretary-general, said that the first place that reported a large-scale outbreak is not necessarily the origin of the epidemic, adding that Washington's plot of politicizing an academic issue is falling apart.
2. The role of U.S. military is implicated in the origin and spread of COVID-19.
The United States was the first to start research in recombinant virus and possesses unrivalled strength in this area. It has also funded and conducted more research in coronaviruses than any other country. Before 2015 the team of Dr. Ralph Baric with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had developed the most advanced technology on recombinant coronaviruses, and acquired genetic sequences of coronaviruses from their studies in collaboration with a military biolab at Fort Detrick. The lab was abruptly shut down by the U.S. military over suspected leakages in July 2019. The closure of the lab was followed by reports of outbreaks of pneumonia of unknown cause with similar symptoms as COVID-19 in the surroundings of Fort Detrick. The possibility that Fort Detrick is the origin of the pandemic cannot be ruled out.
On March 10, 2020, a petition was launched on the White House's website, demanding that Washington unveil information about Fort Detrick, the country's prominent lab on biological weapons, as well as the real reason for its closure, and clarify whether there was a virus leak. However, Washington has so far refused to tell the public the truth on the pretext of "national security concerns." On July 12, 2019, the ABC News reported a deadly "respiratory outbreak," in which 54 people had developed fever, cough and general weakness and two died, at a retirement community in northern Virginia, just an hour's drive from Fort Detrick.
3. Early cases in many countries are linked to the United States.
COVID-19 outbreaks in many countries have been traced to the United States. Official information from 12 countries, including Costa Rica, Bhutan, Guyana and Kenya, indicated that "patient zero" in those countries were from the United States.
According to a report released by Japan's Keio University School of Medicine in February 2021, a research team performed SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome sequencing of specimens from 198 patients with COVID-19 at 13 collaborating hospitals located in the Kanto region. The viral lineages were differentiated and classified. The team found that one sample from a COVID-19 patient admitted to a hospital in the Kanto region in November 2020 belonged to the B.1.346 lineage of Clade 20C, which has been prevalent in the western United States since November 2020.
According to research of Tel Aviv University, most of the infections in Israel were caused by a SARS-CoV2 strain imported from the United States. The researchers compared the genomic sequences of over 200 patients at hospitals across Israel to some 4,700 genomic sequences taken from patients around the world. They found that about 70 percent of the patients had been infected by a coronavirus strain that originated in the United States. Canada said in April 30, 2020 that the country's early COVID-19 cases mainly came from the United States. Data from Canada's four major provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia), also the four hardest-hit ones, have shown that it was American travelers who brought the virus to the country.
II. The United States is the main force of global COVID-19 spread
As the country with highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, the United States has yet walked out of the abyss of the pandemic. The Delta variant is spreading in a faster speed, leading to sharp daily increases of confirmed cases in the United States. So far, the country's confirmed cases has exceeded 48 million, and the death toll has surpassed 790,000.
In an editorial published by the U.S.-based New England Journal of Medicine, it said the United States has "failed at almost every step" in handling the pandemic. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, Washington's various error-ridden internal and foreign policies have not only caused the collapse of its own pandemic control, but also accelerated the spread of the global pandemic. The United States has repatriated illegal migrants, opened for travel, rotated its troops in foreign countries, and conducted military exercises. These unconventional moves have introduced U.S. domestic COVID-19 infections into other countries and regions, and made the country became the major force that prompted the large scale spread of the global pandemic.
1. Missing the best time to control the pandemic at early stage
The United States once misjudged the COVID-19 as flu, making it more difficult to detect the pandemic in early times. From June 28 to October 3, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) received over 1,000 cases of vaping-related pneumonia, with 18 deaths and a mortality rate of nearly 2 percent. The CDC officials admitted that they have some "early cases of COVID-19 that were misdiagnosed as flu or other illness," but so far it has not released details of those cases.
According to the New York Times, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services has warned the potential severity of the pandemic as early as January 18, 2020, but the White House ignored it. From late January to the end of March, the White House turned a deaf ear to warnings from the WHO, American experts and data models and still acted slowly, resulting in the rapid spread of the pandemic across the country. With the most developed medical system in the world, the United States failed to prevent and control the coronavirus in its early stage, and paid less attention to it, damaging the health of the American people. Meanwhile, the world has been not able to share the country's advanced experience in prevention, control and medical treatment, and the global capacity of pandemic prevention and control has been greatly undermined.
2. Open-door policy exacerbated global spread
Affected by many factors such as the strong concept of so-called "human rights and freedom," the weak quality of natural science knowledge of the people at the bottom, federalism and the presidential election, the United States has not implemented science-based pandemic prevention measures, with frequent flow of people in the country and lax policies on outbound travel. The irresponsible and lax outbound travel measures taken by the United States, which is at the epicenter of the pandemic, have directly caused the global outbreak of the pandemic.
While most countries are imposing strict prevention and control measures during the pandemic, the United States adopted a laissez-faire policy. Some basic measures, including wearing masks, social distancing and practicing stay-at-home order, have not yet become a consensus in the U.S. society. The lack of timely lockdown measures has accelerated the spread of pandemic across the United States. Mutated viruses are circulating wantonly, and the infection and death rates are remaining high, even setting a global record of over 400,000 newly confirmed cases in a single day. Untimely "reopening" cumbered not only the epidemic prevention and control of the United States itself, but also added a burden to the world.
In early August of 2020, the total confirmed cases worldwide were close to 20 million, of which nearly 5 million came from the United States.
The U.S. State Department, however, announced at that time a lift of a Level 4 travel advisory that had instructed citizens to avoid all international travels, claiming that the pandemic had been under control and that there is a need to reopen for economic recovery.
This reckless move took a heavy toll on the world.
According to data released by the National Tourism Office of the United States, from April 2020 to March 2021, a total of 23.195 million U.S. citizens traveled abroad via air and land. From November 2020 to January 2021, the United States witnessed a peak in the pandemic, with an average of daily confirmed cases reaching 186,000, while the number of citizens traveling abroad also reaching a high point of 87,000 per day.
The overlapping peaks resulted in a rapid global spread of the pandemic from the United States. According to reports, 30 percent of the 7,000 imported cases in South Korea and 14 percent of the 6,000 confirmed cases in Australia were from the United States.
3. Irresponsibly repatriated immigrants, exporting cases worldwide
The United States has continued to deport undocumented immigrants during the pandemic and pushed up imported caseloads worldwide, which is an extreme disrespect for life.
On May 13, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a halt to repatriation of immigrants so as to curb the outbreak of the pandemic globally.
However, the United States, with the world's most COVID-19 cases, failed to suspend deportations in a timely manner. Instead, the country continued to send thousands of immigrants to vulnerable countries lacking equipment and capabilities to address the pandemic.
Data from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed that from March to mid-June 2020 alone, the number of deportations of similar immigrants from U.S. customs detention centers was nearly 40,000. In 2020, the ICE expelled about 186,000 people, up by 160 percent compared to 2019.
In addition, the repatriation covered 61 destinations, including Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Brazil, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Mexico, and Jamaica. The Guatemalan government said in late April 2020 that nearly one-fifth of the country's COVID-19 cases were related to those deported by the United States.
4. U.S. troops overseas repeatedly violated epidemic prevention protocols, speeding up transmission
U.S. military personnel broke protocols when visiting Vietnam, leading to a large-scale outbreak in the Southeast Asian country.
In March 2020, U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt docked at the Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang.
Many Vietnamese paid a visit to the vessel where there were no precautionary measures at all, while around 5,000 U.S. officers and sailors disembarked to tour the city. A massive outbreak of COVID-19 cases began in Vietnam after the aircraft carrier left.
U.S. troops in Japan and South Korea gathered for Independence Day celebrations, leading to local outbreaks.
In July 2020, U.S. soldiers quarantined at a Hilton Hotel in Okinawa, Japan went downtown for a U.S. Independence Day celebration party, violating local quarantine protocols. They did not wear masks, nor maintain social distancing.
The prefecture, which had previously reported no cases, saw a surge of infections after the event.
In July 2020, U.S. soldiers in South Korea's Osan and Daegu went to Busan and gathered for Independence Day celebrations, setting off firecrackers while maskless, leading to a spike of daily cases locally.
5. U.S. failure to control COVID-19 in int'l events leads to "superspreading"
A biotech conference in Boston in February 2020, which was flagged as a COVID-19 superspreading event, led to at least 245,000 other cases across the U.S. and Europe, according to a CNN report on Dec. 11, 2020, citing a genetic fingerprinting study led by the team at the Broad Institute in Massachusetts.
Their study, published in Science, found two particular genetic fingerprints of viruses associated with the conference and then tracks those lineages across the U.S.. One was spred from Boston to 29 U.S. states as well as to other countries, including Australia, Sweden, and Slovakia.
The study also found that a subset of the viral strain with a mutation ended up infecting 88,000 people. This means this conference, attended by about 200 people from across the world and without any protective measures, seeded thousands of infections.
6. Unilateral sanctions lead to humanitarian crisis
Whether the global pandemic could be controlled depends not on the countries who've handled the virus the best, but the weakest ones.
As the pandemic continues to rage across the world, the United States refused to lift sanctions on some countries out of its geo-political considerations. This made it hard for those countries to get access to medical supplies and humanitarian assistance, crippling their abilities in containing the virus.
Take Iran as an example. The U.S. not only turn a deaf ear to the request from the international community to ease sanctions on Iran, but introduced more in the COVID era. This resulted in a burst of infections during the early stages of the pandemic. Iran once ranked No. 9 in global confirmed cases.
Due to U.S.-imposed sanctions, Middle East, Latin-American and African countries with weak public health systems, suffered a huge loss and severe humanitarian crisis.
III. Political manipulation makes global fight against epidemic more difficult
U.S. political manoeuvring has taken the world further and further away from overcoming the epidemic. From the very beginning of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. politicians have placed geopolitics above science. The United States has given the pandemic a "Cold War" narrative, "Cold War" language and political overtones of "Cold War" attacks, smearing and vilifying China and seriously disrupting international origins-tracing and global anti-pandemic cooperation.
The United States is politically polarised and mired in partisanship, unable to heal social rifts. It is difficult for the government to focus its efforts on effectively combating the pandemic. This has not only aggravated the pandemic in the country, but also affected the global anti-pandemic fight.
1. Shirking responsibility for pandemic prevention and undermining international anti-pandemic efforts
In order to get rid of the dilemma of ineffective anti-pandemic efforts, U.S. politicians have taken the initiative to direct the "dirty water" to the international arena, shifting the responsibility to China, making unreasonable accusations against China's anti-pandemic policy, discrediting China's transparency in combating the pandemic, trying to make the Chinese government responsible for the U.S. anti-pandemic failure, and even demanding the Chinese government to "pay for it." Trump himself once used the term "Chinese virus" to refer to the coronavirus, undermining China-U.S. cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has also been the subject of blame shifting by the United States. The Trump administration claimed that the WHO failed to play its due role and was also responsible for the U.S. fight against the pandemic. Not only did the U.S. government announce the suspension of funding to the WHO at a critical moment in the global fight against the pandemic, but also investigated whether WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has properly responded to the pandemic.
To tackle the pandemic in the shortest possible time, all countries need to work together and join forces in prevention and control. U.S. politicians' blame-shifting subterfuge has increased the cost of global anti-pandemic fight, created differences between countries, and severely hindered the global fight against the pandemic, which in turn has worsened the situation in the United States and prolonged its own fight against the COVID-19.
2. Obsession with political self-interest and refusal to take up responsibility
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. has exposed to the fullest its obsession with political self-interest featuring unilateralism, "America First", "American supremacy" and its mentality of hegemony. Tracing the origins of COVID-19 within the U.S. arguably helps detect problems at an early date and prevents future outbreaks. But the U.S. has employed double standards on the issue of origins-tracing. On one hand, it has hyped the "lab leak theory" and actively promoted the WHO's investigation in China. On the other, it has disregarded questions and calls from the international community, refusing to investigate Fort Detrick and a biological laboratory at the University of North Carolina, both of which are suspicious. It is therefore evident that the U.S. has incessantly hyped COVID-19 origins tracing not to be responsible for the people of the world, but to fabricate lies, distort truth, attrite China's diplomatic resources and gain bargaining chips against China.
The U.S., as the world's number one superpower, has absolutely insufficient responsibility and accountability to match. While it always boasts humanitarianism and human rights, the country practices "America First" and adheres to "vaccine nationalism" on the matter of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. The U.S. hasn't cooperated in the global planning of vaccine distribution and has made accusations against China's vaccine aid; it has implemented export controls over raw materials for vaccine production and has hoarded a large number of COVID-19 vaccines far beyond the needs of its people; it has been reluctant and slow to provide aid to the developing countries afflicted by the pandemic. It in doing so has worsened the global vaccine inequality and left the vaccine gap to be continuously widened.
The U.S. politicians who champion unilateralism appear to have defended U.S. interests, but their behavior is backfiring. It is becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. government is the biggest troublemaker.
3. Political polarization causes harm to America itself and world at large
The United State's COVID-19 response has fallen victim to the country's partisan battles since the very beginning. The Democrats and the Republicans fight not for effectively controlling the epidemic and saving lives, but for using the pandemic as an opportunity to gain support from the voters. When the pandemic was at its worst in the U.S., which coincided with the 2020 presidential election, many politicians were more concerned about their own prospect in the government transition than how to handle the pandemic. This has cost the U.S. precious time for controlling the disease. At that time, the epidemic data of many U.S. states were delayed for several weeks before being reported to the federal government, which seriously affected the country's epidemic decision-making. The situation has remained unchanged after the Biden administration came to power. Despite recurrences of COVID-19 cases, Biden has not taken tough measures against some Republican governors' resistance to wearing masks and maintaining social distancing, nor has he acted strictly on swing voters due to the outbreaks.
The uncontrollable pandemic, the constantly mutating virus, and the ingrained ideological differences have made Americans confused and furious. The U.S. political system can hardly manage and control an extremely divided society, nor can it protect the country from a new round of man-made disasters, to which the American people and the people of the world are all victims.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, especially with the emergence of mutant strains, which has increased uncertainties over future global pandemic response, the U.S. should abandon its obsession with political self-interest, reflect on its major mistakes in epidemic prevention and control, stop politicizing the coronavirus, stop undermining international anti-epidemic cooperation, actively share its vaccines with the world, carry out origins tracing research in a scientific manner and facilitate global economic recovery, so as to finally defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.
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