DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN)– Data shows COVID-19 cases are still rising among young students. Health leaders say it’s not children causing spread, but the environment itself.

“They are very smart and when we explain things in terms that they understand, they are very likely to follow instructions,” said Chief Medical Officer of Miami Valley Hospital Dr. Roberto Colon.

Some health leaders believe a classroom’s tight environment is what’s encouraging spread among young students, not the child themselves. Governor Mike DeWine said since August 15th, nearly 30,000 school aged children have contracted the virus.

“We should have children in all our schools, public or private, with kids wearing masks until we can get out of this horrible horrible situation that we are in,” said DeWine.

Last week, Ohio’s health leaders debunked the myth that wearing masks long term can be harmful for kids. However, Dr. Colon says parents should encourage kids to look at the bigger picture.

“You can get a kid to wear a helmet, chin strap, mouth guard, you can absolutely talk to them and help them understand why wearing a face mask is so important right now,” said Dr. Colon.

A classroom, once seen as a place for learning is now being viewed as a contributor to COVID-19 spread among young Ohioans. Having students in tight spaces for a long period of time is proving to be a dangerous environment due to the delta variant.

“It’s a closed classroom without great circulation moving around and if kids aren’t wearing masks, they’re going to have that exposure to all those around them,” said Dr. Colon.

Keep in mind, only students 12 years and older are eligible for COVID-vaccines, which means all elementary schools across the state have unvaccinated students. Without the possibility of a vaccine, Dr. Colon says he has other suggestions for safety.

“Right now what I’m recommending is that they send masks with them to school, several masks actually so they can change them in the day if they become stained or damaged during the day but that really is the best way to protect them right now,” said Dr. Colon.

At this time, the coronavirus dashboard shows barely over half of eligible Ohioans have started the vaccination process.