In this interim report on covid-19 released by the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, figure 5 shows a plot of the social media activity of Weibo users in a covid-19 assistance channel.

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The senate report never references figure 5, but the report clearly implies that figure 5 shows there were more cases around the Wuhan Institute of Virology than the Huanan Seafood Market. This youtube video talking about the report with 800k views says that the figure shows that the initial cluster of covid cases were primarily around the WIV.

The figure is taken from this open access paper. Is it legit or not.

  • 3
    Note that this map is essentially saying that social media use is higher in the city center then in the suburbs. I will gladly believe that but I don't see what that is supposed to prove about Covid-19.
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 19, 2022 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


The map shows no cluster of cases around Wuhan Institute of Virology. It is around a nearby park.

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The fallacy here is shifting near the Institute to around the Institute.

However, the report does indirectly reference the map when it points to an infected researcher from Wuhan as a possible source.

Basis for Assessment that Research

...A research-related incident is consistent with the early epidemiology showing rapid spread of the virus in Wuhan, with the earliest calls for assistance being located in the near the WIV’s original campus in central Wuhan. It also explains the low genetic diversity of the earliest known SARS-CoV-2 human infections in Wuhan, because the likely index case, would be an infected researcher, is the likely primary source of the virus in Wuhan.

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