COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Ohio's COVID-19 numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction, state health officials are warning parents about the alarming rate kids are being hospitalized and placed into intensive care.

"What we could say a year ago, that kids weren't getting sick from COVID, we can no longer say that," said Dr. Hector Wong of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Wong said in a news conference Thursday the “silver lining of the pandemic” is gone.

"A year ago, we would have a handful of kids in the hospital who were with us for other conditions and happened to have COVID,” Wong said. “Now what we're starting to see is kids in the hospital, including the ICU, who are there because of COVID.”

The latest data released last week by the Ohio Hospitals Association showed a 68% week-to-week increase in hospitalizations for kids due to COVID-19.

The Ohio Children's Hospital Association said its staff is being “strained at unprecedented levels.” The organization wrote a letter Thursday begging Ohioans to get vaccinated and to mask up.

But that is not the only problem hospitals are having. Overall admissions are up nearly 10 times what they were in early July, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff.

Vanderhoff said the finger should be pointed at one group of people.

"Unvaccinated Ohioans are far and away the COVID-19 patients filling our hospital beds,” said Vanderhoff. “Data shows that from January to the present, less than 2.5% of those hospitalized were fully vaccinated. This is a hospital pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

Last year, when Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, said hospitals were concerned about capacity, he mandated masks statewide. The vaccine was also not available at the time. Yet there has been skepticism mixed with an unwillingness to get the vaccine amongst 40% of people in the state.

The Ohio Federation of Teachers called on the governor Thursday to re-issue the mask mandate but Vanderhoff said there is no appetite for that or a vaccine requirement.

"We're part of a very wonderful democracy and in that democracy, it really at the end of the day always depends upon the will of the people," Vanderhoff said.

A spokesperson for DeWine adding to that by saying, "One-third of students are in districts where mandates are in place. The governor's plan has worked in that we're sharing the information and school districts are making these decisions on their own and what's in the best interest of their students."