China’s Global Times, a government propaganda outlet, published an “exclusive” on Sunday claiming that Chinese scientists would soon demand Chinese coronavirus antibody testing for people in the United States diagnosed with lung injuries related to e-cigarette use.
The Chinese coronavirus originated in Wuhan, a central Chinese city, in late 2019. Official Chinese government documents leaked to the South China Morning Post date the first confirmed coronavirus case to November 17, 2019, but studies of respiratory illness in the region suggest that the virus may have been circulating undetected prior to that. Despite this, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and its propaganda arms have engaged in a campaign to redirect global attention away from Wuhan and towards a U.S. Army biological facility at the base in Fort Detrick, Maryland, which Chinese government officials have insisted for months, without evidence, is the “true” origin of the virus.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly demanded Washington open the Army facility up to investigation by the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) and international scientists. It has simultaneously promoted the theory that the virus leaked from the Fort Detrick laboratory and that no evidence exists that the virus leaked from a laboratory, the latter in response to mounting evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), a top biological facility known to have been studying coronaviruses at the time of the local outbreak, may have played a role in the pandemic.
Part of the Chinese government’s alleged “evidence” that the virus originated in Fort Detrick is its claim that cases of e-cigarette or Vaping Association Lung Injury (EVALI) in late 2019 may have been incorrectly diagnosed, hiding the true first cases of Chinese coronavirus. It claims that EVALI cases around the Fort Detrick area in Maryland suggest an outbreak of coronavirus despite the fact that the number of such cases in the state is unremarkable, particularly in comparison to high numbers of diagnoses in Texas, Illinois, and New York.
To test that hypothesis, the Global Times stated that “a group of Chinese scientists and radiologists” are now demanding the U.S. government test EVALI patients of that era for coronavirus antibodies.
“It’s possible that some of the patients of the mysterious vaping-related lung disease that swept through all of the 50 US states in 2019 were actually COVID-19 patients,” the Global Times claimed, “according to a group of Chinese scientists and radiologists after reviewing some 250 chest CT scans from published papers.”
The CT scans in question, which the newspaper published, showed that both EVALI, a condition overtly described as a lung injury, and Chinese coronavirus infection cause lung damage. Lung damage is a relatively common effect of moderate to severe viral respiratory infections.
The scientists allegedly identified five “moderately suspicious” cases of EVALI that could have been secret coronavirus cases. The Global Times also quoted a separate scientist from Wuhan University insisting that misdiagnoses of coronavirus patients as EVALI suffers were “highly likely.”
Neither the Global Times nor the Chinese government has explained how it is possible for doctors to confuse Chinese coronavirus cases for EVALI when the latter is not contagious. While Beijing initially attempted to claim – and the W.H.O. endorsed its claim – that the Chinese coronavirus was not transmissible human-to-human. The virus is highly contagious and, through genetic variations, is believed to have become increasingly contagious in the past year.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the main way the coronavirus spreads is “through respiratory droplets within a radius of 6 feet,” requiring health workers to use personal protective equipment (PPE) when dealing with coronavirus patients to protect themselves. In contrast, doctors dealing with some of the first confirmed cases of EVALI rapidly confirmed it was not an infectious disease.
“It really looks like some sort of inhalation injury,” Lynn D’Andrea, a pediatric pulmonologist who studied some of the first cases of EVALI, told NBC News in November 2019.
No evidence of a single case of EVALI transmitted from person to person exists despite health workers typically not using infectious disease protocol to protect themselves when handling EVALI patients.
The Global Times did not address the fact pattern, stating obliquely, “as of today, there is still no confirmed cause of the e-cigarette pneumonia, and the contagiousness of the disease is still unknown.”
The Global Times also failed to acknowledge the link between American EVALI cases and illicit vaping products manufactured poorly in Shenzhen, a Chinese tech hub. The American CDC has credited the stark decline in EVALI cases nationwide in part to federal legislation to keep Shenzhen products out of the hands of American consumers and “law enforcement actions against illicit products.” These legal actions were in part due to protests from American e-cigarette companies like Juul objecting to Chinese competitors manufacturing counterfeit products and selling them in American markets at a cheaper price, putting American consumers in danger with faulty products and jeopardizing the American companies by illicitly using their brand names.
The Global Times concluded on Sunday by accusing Washington of “terrorism” and “verbally assaulting” unnamed scientists and then demanding the American company allow international investigators, including from China, into top-secret U.S. Army facilities and the University of North Carolina.
Prior to the publication of the “exclusive,” Zhao Lijian, the first Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman to promote the theory that the Chinese coronavirus originated in the United States, berated America in his Friday briefing for “lying, vilifying and coercing its standard practice without any respect for facts, science and justice.”
“Such despicable behavior of the US will leave a stain in the history of the humanity’s fight against diseases,” Zhao denounced, demanding that American officials “invite WHO experts to investigate Fort Detrick and its 200-plus bio-labs overseas” and, again, to the University of North Carolina, without elaborating on the significance of the latter.