WASHINGTON — Top public health officials are warning about an alarming rise in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, figures that represent a bitter setback in the fight to end the pandemic.
“Across the board, we are seeing increases in cases and hospitalizations in all age groups,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a Thursday briefing by the White House pandemic response team. She noted that as of Monday, a full 83 percent of all counties in the U.S. were experiencing “substantial or high” transmission of the coronavirus, a trend driven almost entirely by the virus’s Delta variant.
The discouraging news is a refutation to earlier, rosier predictions. “From the beginning, we have known that this virus is unpredictable,” White House pandemic response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Thursday, though he argued that the administration’s “relentless” vaccination push was showing fresh signs of progress.
The coronavirus has shown a frustrating resilience. New variants of the pathogen could extend the pandemic into 2022.
It was supposed to be over by now.
“We’ll Have Herd Immunity by April,” went the headline of a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on Feb. 18, 2021. Vaccines were just becoming widely available, and the winter surge appeared to be subsiding. “There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection,” predicted the article’s author, Dr. Marty Makary, a cancer surgeon at Johns Hopkins.
Like most other predictions about the pandemic, this one turned out to be incorrect.