MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nationally, COVID-19 cases are down 20% in the last 14 days, but in Minnesota cases are up more than 30%.

That’s according to the New York Times. Much of the increase is because of a surge in cases in children.

The state is now reporting 3,000 cases per week in children under 12; 996 Minnesota schools have COVID cases and on just one day last week 514 cases were reported in K-12 schools, and 441 of those new cases are among students.

“Please get your child vaccinated,” said Dr. Gigi Chawla, the chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota.

Her plea comes as she continues to see very sick kids.

“On average we have at least 12 kids hospitalized every day with COVID and at least half of those are in our ICU trying to recover from COVID illness,” she said.

But kids that are eligible for the vaccine have among the lowest vaccination of all Minnesotans. Just 54% of 12- to 15-year-olds have gotten at least one vaccination shot. For 16- and 17-year-olds that figure is 59%. That’s compared to the 73% of adults 18 and over.

“The best thing you can do is get them vaccinated,” Chawla said. “Tried and true are the millions of people across the world who have been vaccinated and vaccinated safely.”

Chawla says the collateral damage from COVID is also hitting children hard in another way.

“For every four deaths in the United States one child has been left without a parent or their primary caregiver and that is a tremendous amount of grief that children are going to have to go through,” she said.

There is another factor contributing to serious health concerns for kids. In a case of terrible timing, RSV — a dangerous respiratory virus — is also surging right now.

“RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, normally peaks in the wintertime,” Chawla said. “We are seeing that peak now on top of kids presenting with other respiratory illnesses like COVID.”

Experts say a vaccine for children under 12 could be available in a matter of weeks.

Esme Murphy