By Cristina Mendez

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — COVID-19 infections in people under the age of 19 are on the rise, according to data recorded by the Maryland State Department of Health.

Within the past 24 hours, 16 more people had to be hospitalized because of the virus. This brought the total number of inpatients to 468 across the state. Of that total, 13 are pediatric patients. 

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Since Friday, pediatric acute care beds have been in the double digits with 11 in use on Tuesday with an additional two children in the intensive care unit.

An additional 2,482 positive tests were added to the tally Tuesday. People with COVID-19 infections under the age of 19 make up about a quarter of the total caseload.

Over the last 2.5 weeks, data from the state shows there have been more than 400 new COVID-19 cases in that same age group a day.

In a Maryland State Department of Education board meeting, a COVID-19 update was on the agenda.

The board decided against going through the data during the meeting, however, the board president and state superintendent of schools did make brief comments.

Maryland State Department of Health data shows that certain public schools within Howard County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City have set a record high number of COVID-19 cases between April 26 through May 24 compared to earlier this year.

For example, Baltimore City Public Schools recorded 932 cases in that timeframe compared to 632 between to the previous high this year of 623 from January 25 to February 22.

The COVID-19 cases in schools are being carefully monitored, State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said.

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“What you’re seeing is—and you’ll see this in the data—is this variant has a less negative impact than our other variations but it is more contagious,” Choudhury said.

The Maryland State Board of Education President Clarence Crawford noted that safe in-person learning is still the state’s stance.

“We’re not going back to virtual,” Crawford said. “We have more tools available: we have vaccines, we have medical treatments, we have the protocols from last year but to just again as a state to restate our position, in-person safe learning.”

Just under 700,000 people who are 19 years old or younger in Maryland who are eligible for vaccinations have been fully vaccinated.

Children under five years old are the only group in the United States not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination. Now, both Pfizer and Moderna want regulators to greenlight their vaccines to cover youngsters between six months old and five years old. 

On Monday, Pfizer said their data shows three small doses of the vaccine can offer strong protection to children under five years old.

There are steps that remain ahead before these pediatric shots become available.

Health officials and expert panels have to decide if the shots are safe and provide protection to authorize use. The FDA plans to meet on June 15 to discuss vaccinations for our youngest population.

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If either the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine is cleared, then the CDC will have to decide whether to recommend all babies, toddlers, and preschoolers be eligible for the vaccine or only those who are at higher risk of contracting it.

Cristina Mendez