Lifestyle Health More Than 500,000 Children Nationwide Test Positive for COVID in Three Weeks Since Schools Reopened Health officials are urging schools to implement mask mandates for students as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge among those not yet eligible for vaccines By Vanessa Etienne Vanessa Etienne Twitter Vanessa Etienne is an Emerging Content Writer-Reporter for PEOPLE. People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 2, 2021 01:55 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty Images A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reveals that more than 500,000 children tested positive for the coronavirus within the past three weeks, just as schools reopened nationwide. According to data collected from state health departments, between August 5 and August 26, there were 505,564 total child cases of COVID-19 recorded across the nation, with 203,962 positive cases being reported within one week. During this time, the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 also reached an all-time high in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Researchers have found that the delta variant is the most contagious strain of COVID-19 so far, and a study published Friday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases shows that the variant more than doubles the risk of hospitalization. As of now, children ages 11 and under remain ineligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to the virus as they return to classrooms. Child getting tested for COVID. Getty Images Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is hoping to see a vaccine available for children under the age of 12 by the end of the month, according to CNN. "We should have enough of the data to examine and make a decision as we get into late September, the beginning of October," Fauci said. "Then the data will be presented to the FDA, and the FDA will make a determination whether they will grant that under an emergency use authorization or some other mechanism." COVID in the Classroom: Legal Experts Answer Parents' Questions About Keeping Kids Safe at School Getty Images In the meantime, health experts are expressing the need for both students and staff to wear face masks as the school year continues and the pandemic remains an issue nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors of K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, as the Delta variant continues to spread. However, mask mandates at schools and other public spaces vary from state to state. States like Florida, Texas, and Arizona have prohibited these kinds of mandates for the 2021-22 school year, but many districts have defied them despite threats of slashed funding. For example, a Texas school district took advantage of a loophole around the ban on mask mandates by implementing masks to their dress codes for students. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.