KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Four COVID-19 positive patients are currently hospitalized in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Officials at the hospital say they are monitoring the ‘changing face of COVID’ and encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid the rise in recent cases.

The U.S. has experienced a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases since July, largely attributed to the more contagious delta variant and lagging vaccination rates.

Dr. Joe Childs, the hospital’s chief medical officer, explained in a statement, “We are monitoring the changing face of COVID due to the Delta variant across our region, and are ready and able to meet the needs of the pediatric patients in our area. Hospitalizations for children are increasing. We strongly encourage vaccination against COVID-19 for children who are eligible to receive the vaccine.”

Childs said the COVID-19 vaccine is still the best defense against the disease and its variants. The hospital continues to work with state and local health departments along with other area hospitals. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has continued to screen all visitors for COVID-19.

Vaccination is more important than ever. While it is not complete protection from contracting COVID-19, it is the best defense against becoming seriously ill, especially with this more contagious Delta variant circulating.

Dr. Joe Childs, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital chief medical officer

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville is one of four Comprehensive Regional Pediatric Centers in the state of Tennessee.