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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – We’re a little over a month away from most Oklahoma kids heading back to school with no masks, and with COVID-19 cases going up, health leaders have big fears.

“I do have real concerns when we approach the fall and schools reopen,” said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU’s Chief COVID Officer. “I think we could see additional outbreaks.”

“We are very concerned that all these children are going to be back in class. Forty percent may be infected and not know it and spread it to the other children,” said Dr. Mary Clarke, Oklahoma State Medical Association President.

On Wednesday, the state reported 1,082 new cases of COVID-19, and 705 more on Thursday.

(Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

And new data from the State Department of Health shows 20 percent of new cases currently are among Oklahomans age 15 to 24.

Oklahoma health leaders attribute the rise in cases to the number of Oklahomans still unvaccinated, along with the more infectious Delta variant.

“Our hospitals are starting to fill up, nowhere near what we did back in January and February, but hospitalizations are going up,” Bratzler said.

“This Delta variant is more deadly than the original,” Clarke said.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health sent out tips to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools, starting with prioritizing masks, washing hands, keeping workspaces cleaned and contact tracing.

In addition, leaders urge districts to recommend vaccinations for eligible students and staff.

“Getting back in classrooms, having a lot of kids with no masks, no spacing of desks and no vaccinations will be recipe for disaster,” Clarke said. 

The State Department of Education also suggests schools develop plans to isolate and remove individuals who show symptoms.