COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio’s children’s hospitals spoke out Tuesday, warning about the dangers the COVID-19 delta variant poses to the state’s children.

“These are numbers we did not see at the beginning of this pandemic, so clearly COVID has changed with the delta variant, and we are seeing sicker and sicker children,” said Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer with Dayton Children’s Hospital.

This spike in cases among young Ohioans has coincided with the reopening of schools. Gov. Mike DeWine’s office estimates around 47 percent of Ohio’s students are under a school mask mandate.

DeWine’s press secretary said the governor still doesn’t believe there is an appetite for a statewide school mask mandate.

“I think the governor needs to make that decision,” said Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT). “It puts school administrators in a really difficult bind when you have communities who are divided on whether to wear a mask or not wear a mask.”

Both OFT and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) are calling for schools and DeWine to require masks. Without a mandate, they worry students will need to quarantine or move to remote learning.

“We want in-person learning to continue unabated,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro. “However, without widespread student vaccinations, the only way for that to happen safely for students is temporarily requiring masking in schools.”

DeWine’s office said it plans to continue giving the best possible information to school administrators and parents so they can make decisions.

“It’s really clear to us as pediatricians that the risk of not wearing a mask for your child in school is greater than the risk of wearing a mask and for some reason, we are prioritizing kids not wearing a mask over kids not getting COVID,” said Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.