TAMPA (WFLA) – Florida is among ten states seeing the number of kids hospitalized with COVID-19, more than doubling in the past month, according to Department of Health and Human Services Data.

As the highly transmissible omicron variant surges, Tampa Bay area children’s hospitals are preparing for an increase in pediatric hospitalizations.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is seeing more kids who are showing up to the emergency center to either need to be tested or have symptoms. Doctors there tell WFLA they are bracing for even more patients as kids head back to school after winter break.

Data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows children have been hospitalized at nearly twice the rate of adults in the past 4 weeks.

“The more kids who get sick, some of those kids are going to need a hospital and some of those kids will need to go into the intensive care unit and that’s what we’re trying to avoid,” said Dr. Joseph Perno, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s vice president of medical affairs.

The hospital said on Tuesday it had four patients with COVID-19, three were later released. Dr. Perno is bracing for a busy start to the new year.

“I think it’s a couple things,” he said. “I think we know how contagious it is, right, it’s spreading like wildfire so it’s easier to get some other people are getting it and you have to remember pediatric population is still largely unvaccinated.

Right now only kids 5 and up are eligible to get the vaccine, but more than 80% of those 5-11 years old have yet to get the shot.

“It’s typically they’re coming in with respiratory symptoms many times its kids who have an underlying problem or maybe they have asthma or lungs that aren’t fully matured.”

St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa said six pediatric patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon.

Doctors are encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated if they’re eligible. They’re also reminding us of the basics — washing hands, wearing a mask and avoiding those you know who are sick.