DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Recent data from the Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 1.8% of COVID-19 hospitalizations are children 0-4 and 2.5% are ages 5-17 — as schools open back up for the new year, medical experts are fearful this number will only grow.

“We’re seeing some cases. We’ve seen some with respiratory infections. We’ve had some come in with fever. Perhaps it’s a little increase number we’d been used to seeing in the last few months,” said Dr. Sherman Alter with Dayton Children’s Hospital.

Alter said protecting those who still aren’t eligible for vaccination, ages 0-11, remains top priority. “It has mutated, hence becoming a variant. So that it’s more efficient in infecting those that are not immune. If you look at children, particularly the kids that are under the age of 12 that’ve not been vaccinated, they’re obviously susceptible to this virus.”

At Trotwood-Madison City Schools, Superintendent Dr. Reva Cosby is happy to see students returning to the classroom. Though back in person, Cosby’s requiring both students and faculty to wear masks for the first nine weeks of school, before making reassessments.

“We do agree that the best place for our students to get not just the education, not just the socialization that’s important for them, is in the classroom with their teachers,” said Cosby. “At this point it’s not about their rights so much, as being safe and keeping one another safe.”

Leaders from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna have publicly said they hope to begin vaccinating children under 12 as early as fall 2021.