A mini documentary released this month from the liberal publication Vox explains the likely origin of the coronavirus in China, and how a combination of laws and prioritization of luxuries for the rich and powerful in China likely contributed to the outbreak.
In 1998, China’s communist government enacted the Wildlife Protection Law, which designated the animals as “resources owned by the state,” and protected people engaged in the “utilization of wildlife resources,” the documentary states. The law encouraged the domestication and breeding of wildlife, which led to a large scale industrialization of the industry.
“Bigger populations [of rare and exotic animals] meant greater chances that a sick animal could spread disease,” the documentary states. “Farmers were also raising a wide variety of animals. Which meant more viruses on the farms. Nonetheless, these animals were funneled into the wet markets for profit. While this legal wildlife farming industry started booming, it simultaneously provided cover for an illegal wildlife industry.”
The documentary highlights that these wet markets led to the outbreak of the SARS virus in 2002, and that China reopened the wet markets after the outbreak was over.
Peter Li, Associate Professor at the University of Houston, told Vox, “The majority of the people in China do not eat wildlife animals. Those people who consume these wildlife animals are the rich and the powerful – a small minority.”
“It’s this minority that the Chinese government chose to favor over the safety of the rest of its population,” the documentary adds. “Soon after the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese government shut down thousands of wet markets and temporarily banned wildlife trade again. Organizations around the world have been urging China to make the ban permanent.”
“The coronavirus has now been identified in all 50 U.S. states, and more than 140 deaths in the country have been linked to the illness. Those known deaths, all from the past three weeks, come as the number of diagnoses has surged into the thousands as the virus has spread and as testing has expanded significantly,” The New York Times reported late on Wednesday. “As of Wednesday evening, at least 8,017 people across every state, plus Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories, have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a New York Times database, and at least 143 patients with the virus have died.”
On Wednesday, two U.S. lawmakers became the first members of Congress to test positive for the coronavirus.
Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) announced on Twitter that he had been infected with the virus:
On Saturday evening, after returning from Washington, D.C., I developed mild cold-like symptoms. In consultation with my doctor on Sunday, I immediately isolated myself in my home. I have been conducting all meetings by telephone. My symptoms got worse and I developed a fever, dry cough and labored breathing and I remained self-quarantined. On Tuesday, my doctor instructed my to get tested for COVID-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic for the test. Today I learned that I tested positive. I am still working for Utahns and pursuing efforts to get Utahns the resources they need as I continue doing my job from home until I know it is safe to end my self-quarantine. I’m doing my part as all Americans are doing to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the coronavirus outbreak. I urge Utahns to take this seriously and follow the health recommendations we’re getting from the CDC and other health experts so that we can recover from this public health threat.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) announced his diagnosis on Twitter, writing: “I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better. However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”