Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty

President Biden ordered the U.S. intelligence community on Wednesday to "redouble their efforts" to determine whether COVID-19 first emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan or through animal-to-human transmission.

Flashback: The "lab leak" theory was initially dismissed by most scientists and public health officials and spread mainly by some of China's loudest critics, including President Trump. Many media outlets steered clear, and it faded into the background of the COVID-19 debate.

Now, everyone from Biden to 18 leading biologists (writing in Science) to Anthony Fauci to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for further investigation.

  • One reason is that no conclusive evidence has emerged for the animal spillover hypothesis, which had long been regarded by many scientists as the most likely explanation. It can take years to trace a virus back to an animal source.
  • Another related reason is China's stonewalling of any thorough investigation — a characteristic response from Beijing that has nonetheless fueled suspicions that the government has something to hide.
    • The outright dismissal of the lab theory in the report following a WHO investigation that was tightly controlled by China only fueled those suspicions further (particularly as the report took seriously the bizarre theory that the virus was imported in frozen food).
  • Then there's the drumbeat of circumstantial news reports like the one from WSJ about workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology falling ill in November 2019.
  • There's also the history: "[S]cientists now believe that the H1N1 seasonal flu that killed thousands every year from 1977 to 2009 was influenza research gone feral," writes Donald McNeil, formerly the NYT's lead reporter on the pandemic and a recent convert to the lab leak theory.

The bottom line: We may never know how a pandemic that has killed at least 3.5 million people and thrown perhaps 115 million more into poverty began. Many scientists continue to point to animal spillover. But the lab leak theory has officially gone mainstream.

Go deeper: What the lab leak theory means for scientific research

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Aug 25, 2021 - Health

The dwindling chances of finding COVID's origin

Chinese police stand outside the Wuhan Institute of Virology as WHO staff visit on Feb. 3. Photo: Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. intelligence review into the origins of COVID-19 has reportedly proved inconclusive, even as WHO experts warn that time is running out to do further studies on the question.

Why it matters: We don't need to know how COVID-19 emerged to finally defeat the pandemic, but clearer answers will help prevent the next big outbreak — whether it comes from nature or human action.

CDC approves boosters for Moderna and J&J and mix-and-match

Boxes containing vials of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's independent advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend booster doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine for certain populations and allow people to mix-and-match doses.

The big picture: The agency aligns with the Food and Drug Administration authorization Wednesday night which said people could switch to whichever vaccine they wanted for their booster shot.

1 hour ago - World

Israel to approve new construction in West Bank settlements

Bennett (L) and Biden discussed the settlements issue. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Israel will approve the construction of 4,400 new homes in the West Bank next week: 3,10o in the Jewish settlements and 1,300 in Palestinian villages.

Why it matters: This will be the first time Israel has approved new settlement building since President Biden assumed office, and it's the first time since 2007 that it approves a significant number of new homes for Palestinians in "Area C" of the West Bank, which is controlled by Israel.