By CBSLA Staff

NEWPORT BEACH (CBSLA) – Doctors in Orange County are concerned after seeing an increase in COVID infections in children. Pediatricians said they have seen a noticeable spike in COVID cases in kids over the past month.

“Months ago the numbers were minimal, less than a couple a week,” said Dr. Steven Abelowitz, a pediatrician in Newport Beach. “Since then, we have been seeing escalating numbers, almost doubling and tripling every week.”

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Dr. Abelowitz added a majority of his patients are elementary school age and have symptoms that are similar to a common cold, making it hard to diagnose right away.

“About 50 to 70 community members in South Orange County have been diagnosed this month,” said Dr. Abelowitz.

The number of people getting their first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine increased last week by 40% compared to the week before at Cedars-Sinai, and health officials statewide also are reporting an uptick in first-dose vaccinations.

“More people are finally getting their shot,” Cedars-Sinai officials said Monday as they compared vaccine distribution between the weeks of July 19 and July 26, having dosed 600 people last week. Statewide, California reported an increase of 20% in the total number of first vaccine doses administered to more than 265,000 people the week of July 19 compared to the week of July 12.

“Any increase in the number of individuals being vaccinated at this point is very welcome news,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Soniya Gandhi, who is the vice president of Medical Affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai.

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Gandhi emphasized that vaccination remains “the most powerful tool we have to get control of this pandemic.”

Cedars-Sinai officials said the increase could be due to the recent spike in the spread of the virus. Los Angeles has been experiencing sharp increases in daily case numbers, hospitalizations and test-positivity rates over the past several weeks, with the increases attributed to the highly infectious Delta variant.

“Over the past eight months, millions of people in the U.S., and around the world, have been safely vaccinated. The data overwhelmingly shows the vaccines to be effective at preventing serious illness that causes hospitalization, and death,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Saturday. “To really beat back transmission, however, we need to have higher levels of vaccination, particularly among our younger residents.”

Ferrer said the county has now seen two consecutive weeks of small increases in the number of people receiving a first dose. Between July 19 and 25, about 70,000 doses were administered in the county, up about 7,500 from the previous week.

Regardless of what may be driving the rise in vaccinations, frontline medical workers said the increase is welcome news as they watch the number of COVID-19 patients swell again.

“It’s great that people are doing their part to try and slow this down,” said Dr. Isabel Pedraza, director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Cedars-Sinai. “The numbers of COVID-19 patients are clearly climbing in the hospital now, and virtually every one of those patients is unvaccinated. Seeing vaccinations increase makes me hopeful that maybe we won’t see as big of a spike as last time.”

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)