Ernst says IG’s audit may find clues to Covid-19 origins

WASHINGTON — As debate over the origins of Covid-19 continues, the Biden Administration is launching an audit of federal grants that may have supported coronavirus research in China. Republican Senator Joni Ernst has been pushing for an investigation of a US non-profit that sent about $600,000 in federal grant money to China’s Wuhan Institute over a six-year period.

“The information EcoHealth Alliance possesses could strengthen the case for or against the lab leak theory,” Ernst said during a conference call with Iowa reporters. “It’s absolutely critical that we get access to that information.”

The head of the EcoHealth Alliance has called the lab leak theory “pure baloney” and suggests it’s more likely China is covering up the role its wildlife markets played in spreading Covid from animals to humans. Ernst is seeking other senate co-sponsors of legislation that would cut off federal grant money to organizations that fail to provide all the information federal investigators seek about federally-funded research.

“There’s no reason Iowa taxpayers should continue to foot the bill for organizations that fail to follow federal laws,” Ernst said, “particularly one that could hold answers to the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

CNN is reporting  that the Inspector General’s Office in the US Department of Health and Human Services is launching an audit of how some organizations and subcontractors used National Institutes of Health grants over the past seven years. Several news organizations have reported recently that classified intelligence indicates three researchers at the Wuhan Institute got sick in the fall of 2019, before the Covid outbreak was reported.

In May, the US Senate unanimously passed an Ernst proposal that would ban any federal funds from being spent at the Wuhan Institute.