BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland continue to climb, there is growing concern about how quickly the virus is spreading among children.

Data released Thursday by the Maryland Department of Health shows 30 children are among the COVID-19 patients receiving acute care at hospitals throughout the state, doubling from 15 the day before.

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Dr. Aaron Milston, a pediatric infectious disease physician for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, said the highly contagious Omicron variant is why so many children are coming down with COVID-19.

“We’re clearly seeing an increase in the number of kids we’re seeing diagnosed with COVID,” Dr. Milstone said.

Milstone said there are many opportunities for children to be exposed to COVID-19, especially with students out of school over the holiday break.

“We have this variant that’s very contagious and we have lots of kids getting together with people, with family, with friends, sleepovers, outside of school now,” he said.

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But even while the number of pediatric patients being treated for COVID-19 has risen sharply, Milstone said that doesn’t mean their illnesses are more severe.

“It just means there’s more disease out there,” the doctor said. “There’s so many kids getting infected.”

When it comes to vaccinations, Milstone said, many children are now eligible to get the vaccine. He said some are even eligible for a booster shot.

According to a recent report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon approve Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for children ages 12 to 15.

Until then, though, Milstone said parents need to take the necessary precautions to protect their young ones.

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“It’s not that you can’t let you kids do things now,” he said. “You have to rethink what additional measures to put in place to keep them safe. And I say masking right now is the biggest.”

Jessica Albert