COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) — Governor Mike DeWine held a news briefing Tuesday where he urged Ohioans to buckle down and take the spread of the delta variant seriously — if only to protect the state’s children.

“Today in Ohio, we are facing a perfect storm. Just as our kids are back to school, the new delta variant is sweeping across our state taking direct aim at all of those who are not vaccinated,” said DeWine.

The governor said that the state is tracking an accelerated spread of the delta variant since his last public briefing on August 6.

“On July 7, our cases were at 17 cases statewide per 100,000 people for a two-week period. Today, that number is 236 per 100,000 people. Every county in the state is considered a high incidence county,” said DeWine.

The Ohio Department of Health is reporting that 1,571 people are currently hospitalized because of COVID-19 and 464 people are in intensive care units. This is the highest number of COVID patients in Ohio’s hospitals since February.

DeWine told parents during the briefing that if their child’s school doesn’t require a mask, they can still send them to school in one. Though it’s too late for state officials to mandate parents and districts do anything, he hopes they make the right decision for the sake of Ohio’s children.

“I’m speaking directly to every parent, school official, and school board member in Ohio: The best way to make sure a child can stay in school is for that child to be vaccinated. If a child can’t be vaccinated, the best way to ensure a good year is for that child to wear a mask,” said DeWine.

One Bellbrook parent said two of her three children have tested positive for COVID-19. They’re too young to get the vaccine and with school starting this week, she said they will now be missing critical opportunities.

“They would be vaccinated the minute they’re offered the vaccine even after this,” said Kassie Kipling, a parent in Bellbrook. “I’m not happy at all and mad at the world right now that my kids have this and are going through this.”

Kipling’s family is being quarantined after both her 7- and 9-year-old children tested positive due to an outbreak at daycare. She’s waiting to have her third child tested, but with all of them too young to be vaccinated, they’ll miss the first week of school.

With classrooms filling back up, health leaders believe masks alone will not be effective enough to fight the delta variant.

“Masks alone will not be able to do it and it’s really the combination of the vaccination and masks that right now are required,” said Dr. Roberto Colon, chief medical officer for Miami Valley Hospital. “We’ve got to recognize that we’re not in the same place we were even two months ago, so we have to modify our recommendations.”

Kipling said she’s begging her community to think of children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated.

“I am now officially missing things I can’t get back, my daughter will now officially miss her first day of kindergarten. That is stolen from me and I can’t get that back,” said Kipling. “People need to realize their actions have dire consequences for others.”

The governor said that Ohio’s children cannot afford another disruptive school year and that they need to be in the classroom. Due to many children being too young for the vaccine, DeWine said not doing anything to prevent the spread in the classroom will inevitably increase the number of students that need to quarantine.

“The real tragedy of all of this, it’s the children who will suffer when schools shut down. They’re the ones who will get further and further behind,” said DeWine.