CHICAGO (WLS) -- The U.S. is facing its most significant surge in pediatric COVID cases yet, with a record number of children now testing positive for the virus.
Just last week, nearly 252,000 children in the U.S. tested positive, marking the largest increase in pediatric cases since the pandemic began.
"Children represent 25% of the total population in the U.S. and now children are accounting for 25% of infections," said Dr. Larry Kociolek with Lurie Children's Hospital.
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Cases in children dipped early in the summer, but quickly rose again.
"We started to specialize again, and kids went back into daycare and summer camps. It really just provided that breeding ground to spread those illnesses," said Dr. Frank Belmonte with Advocate Children's Hospital.
However, local doctors said Illinois is faring better than states in the south east.
Currently, the daily average is nearly 100 cases in children 17 and younger, and 1 hospitalization over the last seven days.
Latest on COVID in Illinois HERE
For context, there were nearly 200 cases a day for that age group last fall.
Doctors said surrounding children with a so-called "cocoon of vaccinated people" can lessen the spread of the virus.
"Where everyone around them gets vaccinated, that protects them from getting it and therefore them from transmitting it to kids in their family," Belmonte said,
While the surge comes as more kids return to the classroom, doctors said schools can be safe.
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"We can have children in school safely -- with masks, with distancing, with keeping kids out if they're sick -- and if they're positive, contact tracing," Kociolek said.
In the meantime, doctors are still pushing for vaccinations. Trials for a vaccine for kids age 5-11 continue at Lurie Children's Hospital, where doctors are hopeful one will be available by early winter.
Pediatric COVID cases surge with record number of children testing positive for virus