The number of children and teens suffering from the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 exceeded 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the week through Sept. 2, a worrying trend coming just as they return to school in person.

Data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed the number of child cases has been climbing fast through the summer months after declining at the start of the season, with more than 750,000 cases being added between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2. Children accounted for 26.8% of reported cases in the latest week.

While children are less prone to severe cases of COVID, nearly 2,400 were in hospitals across the U.S. in the week through Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. Experts are concerned about the political fighting over face masks and vaccine mandates, which have persisted in some states, even though children below the age of 12 are still not eligible for vaccination.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said it’s crucial that children at least have the protection afforded by a face mask.

“If we want to protect the children …. we’ve got to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people,” he told CNN on Tuesday. “That’s the solution.”

The U.S. is averaging more than 152,000 new cases a day and more than 1,500 fatalities, numbers last seen in March, according to a New York Times tracker.

Daily death numbers have climbed more than fivefold since the start of August, as outbreaks in the Midwest, Northeast and mid-Atlantic offset declines in states in the Deep South, that were recent hot spots.

But in a sign of how serious the situation is in certain places, Idaho has activated “crisis standards of care” which allows officials to effectively ration health care, because hospitals in the north of the state are overwhelmed by COVID patients, as the Associated Press reported. Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S. with just 39% of its population fully vaccinated, according to USA

See: U.S. COVID-19 case tally tops 40 million, and hospitalizations over Labor Day holiday were more than double last year’s

The move allows hospitals to allot scarce resources like intensive-care-unit rooms to patients most likely to survive and make other dramatic changes to the way they treat patients. Other patients will still receive care, but they may be placed in hospital classrooms or conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms or go without some lifesaving medical equipment.

Read also: Fauci says mu variant isn’t an ‘immediate threat’ to U.S. as delta remains dominant coronavirus strain

“Crisis standards of care is a last resort. It means we have exhausted our resources to the point that our healthcare systems are unable to provide the treatment and care we expect,” Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a statement, the AP reported.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that even though daily vaccination rates have climbed as more employers have mandated it for workers returning to offices, just 53.2% of the overall U.S. population is fully vaccinated and just 62.5% have had at least one dose of a two-shot regimen. That leaves about 100 million people unprotected against a potentially lethal illness.

In other virus news, the pandemic hurt the fight against other global diseases including H.I.V., TB and malaria, according to a report published Tuesday by the Global Fund, an advocacy group for patients suffering from those diseases.

Before the outbreak in late 2019, the world had succeeded in halving deaths from those illnesses since 2004. But now with hospitals flooded with COVID patients and supply chains disrupted, resources have been diverted away from treating and preventing them.

“The impact of COVID-19 on the fight against HIV, TB and malaria and the communities we support has been devastating,” Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands. ” For the first time in the history of the Global Fund, key programmatic results have gone backwards.”

Elsewhere, New Zealand may rethink its plan to reopen its borders early next year, as it struggles with an outbreak driven by the highly transmissible delta variant, the Guardian reported. The nation of 4.9 million counted 15 new cases on Wednesday to bring the total in the outbreak to 85.

The Czech Republic recorded its highest one-day new case tally on Wednesday since May, at 588, Reuters reported. Officials are forecasting a continued rise in infections.

In Germany, experts and Health Secretary Jens Spahn are calling for greater vaccine uptake to avoid a surge of new cases in autumn and winter, The reported. The government wants to give the jab drive a boost with a nationwide campaign from next Monday.

Dispatches from a Pandemic: COVID-19 long haulers are frustrated with unvaccinated friends, worried about reinfection, and mired in medical bills

Latest tallies

The global tally for the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 climbed above 222 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 4.58 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with a total of 40.3 million cases and 650,691 deaths.

India has the second highest death toll after the U.S. at 441,411 and is third by cases at 33.1 million, the JHU data shows.

Brazil has second highest death toll at 584,108 and has 20.9 million cases.

In Europe, Russia has 186,224 deaths, followed by the U.K. with 133,808.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 107,277 confirmed cases and 4,848 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.

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