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The number of children in the United States hospitalized with COVID-19 has hit a record high, as the country grapples with the Delta variant.
As of Saturday, 1,902 children were hospitalized across the country, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Children now account for 2.4% of coronavirus-related hospitalizations across the country.
US officials have urged citizens to get vaccinated to protect the population against the more transmissible Delta variant. Children under 12 are not eligible for the vaccine, leaving them more vulnerable.
The latest figures come amid reports of hospitals in the South being overwhelmed, with one doctor in Mississippi warning the state’s hospital system may fail in the coming days due to the COVID-19 surge.
A pediatric hospital in Alabama said on Thursday that it was treating 22 children with COVID-19, five of which were on ventilators.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, described the current wave as “an outbreak of the unvaccinated.”
According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 50.5% of people in the US are fully vaccinated, and 59.4% have received at least one dose. Millions are yet to receive one shot.
Joe Biden fell short of his goal to have 70% of adults fully vaccinated by Independence Day.
“This is not last year’s COVID. This one is worse and our children are the ones that are going to be affected by it the most,” Sally Goza, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN on Saturday
The numbers of newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 18 and 49 also hit record highs this week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Reuters reported.
The spike in cases has re-ignited debates over vaccine mandates and whether children should wear masks in schools.
California has become the first state to mandate teachers and school staff to be vaccinated against or get tested regularly for, COVID-19.
Meanwhile, schools in Florida, Texas, and Arizona have mandated that students wear masks in schools in defiance of Republican state governors who banned such rules.
Becky Pringle, the president of the country’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, said she supported mandatory vaccination for its members.
“Our students under 12 can’t get vaccinated. It’s our responsibility to keep them safe. Keeping them safe means that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated,” Pringle told CNN.