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Security personnel stand guard outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the WHO team studies the origins of the COVID-19 on Feb. 3. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

There were 13 different strains of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China in December 2019, World Health Organization scientist Peter Ben Embarek told CNN in an exclusive interview.

Why it matters: Data gathered during the WHO scientists' first trip to investigate the origins of COVID-19 could point to an outbreak that was more widespread than previously understood.

  • Some virologists believe that multiple strains in Wuhan as early as December could suggest that the virus had previously spread undetected.
  • Embarek, a lead investigator for WHO's mission to Wuhan, declined to draw conclusions on this in his CNN interview.

Of note: WHO scientists also say that it's "extremely unlikely" the virus came from a laboratory accident — debunking a conspiracy theory that had taken root among some Americans in late 2020.

What to watch: WHO scientists hope to return to Wuhan to continue investigations, Embarek said.

Go deeper: WHO's COVID probe in China raises more questions than it answers

Go deeper

Updated Feb 14, 2021 - World

Biden administration has "deep concerns" about WHO's COVID-19 probe

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaking to reporters at the White House on Feb. 4, 2021. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Saturday that the administration is concerned by the World Health Organization's (WHO) probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Sullivan said the administration fears the Chinese government may have intervened or altered the findings of the investigation.

Feb 14, 2021 - World

China accuses U.S. of "pointing fingers" over COVID probe

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

China on Sunday accused the U.S. of "pointing fingers," following a statement from the Biden administration alleging that Beijing may have meddled into the World Health Organization's probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What they're saying: "What the U.S. has done in recent years has severely undermined multilateral institutions, including the WHO," China wrote in a statement from its embassy in D.C. It added that the U.S. has "gravely damaged international cooperation on COVID-19."

Mike Allen, author of AM
20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.