More than 95% of all COVID cases in New Jersey are now being caused by the highly contagious Delta variant, and over the past three weeks the number of Garden State kids hospitalized with the virus has doubled.

The trend is troubling, but it’s not as bad as it might sound.

Numbers collected in a New Jersey Hospital Association survey show there were seven pediatric hospitalizations with confirmed COVID-19 during the last week of July, and that number increased to 14 during the week that ended on August 21.

Dr. Meg Fisher, a pediatric infectious disease expert and advisor to New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, said Delta is highly transmissible and “we do track how many cases by age, and in younger people we are seeing increased incidence of disease."

She stressed while positive cases are rising, serious illness is still quite rare.

“So far the good news is, at least in New Jersey, the children, although they’re getting infected, they’re not getting severe disease,” she said. “We have not seen any kind of surge but just because we haven’t seen it yet doesn’t mean we aren’t planning for it.”

She said all Garden State hospitals have been told to let the Health Department know how many patients they have and how many empty beds they have that are staffed appropriately for children.

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While the vaccination rate in New Jersey is among the highest in the nation, states like Alabama and Mississippi, where more kids are hospitalized, have significantly lower vaccination rates.

Fisher said the increased number of positive cases in kids is probably due to a combination of the Delta variant being very contagious, and the fact that more testing is being performed in Jersey

She said to limit exposure to COVID in younger people it’s important for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, wear a mask, observe social distancing and wash hands frequently.

She also said kids should stay home from school and get tested if they feel sick, or if they had a direct exposure to someone who tests positive for COVID.

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