ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Pediatric COVID-19 cases reached a new pandemic high. In just the last week, over 250,000 infections in children were recorded, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatric infections have risen steadily over the past few months. In the past two weeks, children represented 22-percent of weekly cases. Today, they represent 27-percent.

The surge comes as millions of children return to the classroom. Local health officials continue to encourage eligible populations — anyone over the age of 12 — to get the vaccine.

“We’re seeing more and more cases amongst children because children less than the age of 12 don’t have any ability to get vaccinated,” Dr. Justin Nistico of Arnot Health said. “And we’re seeing a lot of these cases come about because we have this new variant.”

The Delta COVID-19 strain makes up over 90-percent of cases across the United States. New, possibly more contagious variants like “Mu,” are also emerging. Experts say this is resulting in increased pediatric hospitalizations across the country.

“The pediatric ICU’s are overflowing,” Dean of LECOM Dr. Richard Terry said. “That’s unheard of.”

Data from New York State shows that children ages 12 to 15 in the Southern Tier have the lowest vaccination rate — 43-percent — out of any eligible population.

“The ones who are eligible in middle school, high school, oh my goodness, get vaccinated,” Dr. Terry said. “[If more people were vaccinated] we’d have a lot less cases and that’s what we have to aim for. We’ll never get to 100-percent but for goodness sakes, we’ve got to get closer to 80 to 90-percent of people vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, 68.4-percent of individuals in the Southern Tier had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Governor Kathy Hochul is trying to increase those numbers. On Wednesday, outlined vaccination policies for state workers, healthcare workers and college students. More information on that can be found here.