PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In just a matter of days, the number of kids hospitalized with COVID at UPMC Children’s has nearly doubled. That’s why doctors are urging everyone to wear a mask and get the vaccine if they’re eligible, to keep those numbers down as kids head back to school in the next few weeks.

“We’ve had 50 hospitalizations in the last month, including 20 in the last week,” said Dr. John Williams, the Division Chief of Infectious Diseases at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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Just a few days ago, Dr. Williams said that number was at 30 COVID hospitalizations in the last month and 11 in the last week.

Health experts say kids of all ages are being affected, and he’s concerned the numbers will keep going up if action isn’t taken.

“The only way to protect these younger children under 12 is for those of us over 12 to get vaccinated and wear masks,” said Dr. Williams, especially with the school year just around the corner.

“The decisions that those who are leading our schools’ policies, I want them to think about masking and distancing together as possibilities for keeping people safe,” said Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiology at UPMC, Dr. Graham Snyder.

UPMC doctors shared that message during a news conference Tuesday morning. While COVID cases in kids are even worse in other parts of the country, local doctors say that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.

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“Our goal should not be that we aren’t as bad off as Louisiana,” said Dr. Williams.

Dr. Williams said most of the kids he’s seeing hospitalized at Children’s Hospital are getting the virus from unvaccinated people in the community. He stresses they are not getting it once they’re in the hospital.

“We have learned not just at UPMC Children’s, but every hospital in America over the last year with masks and PPE there is essentially no spread of COVID within a hospital,” said Dr. Williams.

Just another example of why doctors feel students, teachers and staff at schools throughout the area should wear masks once they head back to school this fall, so kids can remain safe and get the education and socialization they need at the same time.

Dr. Williams said for every child who is hospitalized with COVID at Children’s, there are at least three or four others — if not more — testing positive for COVID and sent home with milder symptoms.

UPMC has issued this statement on COVID-19 related hospitalizations.

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“There has been a slight increase in the number of patients that UPMC has in our children’s hospital due to COVID-19. All UPMC facilities are safe, operating normally, and ready to provide care for patients and their families. As COVID-19 continues to evolve, UPMC encourages families and the public to vaccinate themselves and their children who are eligible as soon as possible. The best ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 are by taking the vaccine, masking and social distancing.”