By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — COVID-19 numbers in the tri-state region continue to increase. Nearly 4,400 new cases were reported in Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf was in Norristown on Wednesday morning talking up the state’s new school mask mandate that went into effect on Tuesday.

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Even with mask mandates in place, doctors are expecting to see a jump in COVID cases among children, but the governor is hoping masks will help keep the numbers under control and schools open.

“We want to keep kids in the classroom this year, especially after the disruptions of last year,” Wolf said Wednesday.

Wolf was at Hancock Elementary School in Norristown on Wednesday talking about student safety with the Pennsylvania school masking mandate now in effect.

“Masks are one of the best tools we have to keep students in the classroom and COVID out,” Wolf said.

While there’s plenty of support for the mask mandate, there is opposition.

Chopper 3 was over Quakertown High School in Bucks County, where a group of parents and students protested the state-wide school requirement.

Wolf is downplaying the opposition.

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“I don’t think there are a whole lot of parents that don’t want to keep their children safe,” Wolf said.

As children get back to school, pediatric COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed.

More than 252,000 kids tested positive for COVID-19 last week. That’s the highest ever weekly total, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children now make up more than 26% of all COVID cases.

“There is no doubt that the frequency at which children are being infected is dramatically increased,” Dr. Norm Christopher said.

The highest number of cases are in areas with low vaccination rates. There are also a high number of teenagers who are eligible but haven’t received shots. The vaccines haven’t been cleared yet for children under 12 years old. That’s why there is such a big focus on masking.

“I’m a science teacher. I’ve been saying all year, follow the science, follow the science,” Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said. “We know vaccines work, get vaccinated. We know masks save lives, put your mask on.”

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Hospitalization rates for children have also increased, but severe COVID cases in youngsters remain uncommon.

Stephanie Stahl