AKRON, Ohio (WJW)– The recent rise in COVID-19 cases across Ohio is happening just as school districts across the state are within days or weeks of finishing a school year.

Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda says the largest number of cases she has seen lately has been among school kids.

“Because their masks came off and they are all together in a small, tight area,” Skoda said.

The increases come at a time when school districts are planning graduation ceremonies and families will be holding graduation parties. And while COVID-19 and its variants have altered graduations in recent years, Skoda and others do not expect there to be any new guidance forthcoming that would interfere with this year’s ceremonies.

However, as has always been the case with COVID-19, Skoda admitted the general rule of thumb is to never say never.

“Because if we identify a new variant for which the vaccines are not protective, we are going to be right back to square one, and I think that’s why everyone is closely monitoring this,” Skoda said.

“We always have to pay attention, COVID is going to be here. COVID has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t have any interest in going away yet.”

The increase has resulted in the Bedford City School district creating a new mask mandate for its district.

Akron City Schools will have classes for many of its students until the end of the month, and graduation ceremonies for schools including Firestone Community Learning Center and Buchtel CLC at the beginning of June.

“We strongly recommend that everyone wear masks in this building and in our schools. We no longer mandate it, we strongly recommend they wear masks. We still believe that’s a healthy way for people to go about their day here at APS,” said Akron Public Schools spokesman Mark Williamson. “We have had quite a few folks here come down in the past two or three weeks with COVID who are vaccinated who may have had it before and still got it again.”

“We just look to the experts at the health department and if they come to us and they see a trend or they show a concern for something, we will pretty much do whatever they tell us to do. That has worked well for us for two years,” Williamson said.

Vaccination rates among adults across Ohio is about 80%, but among children the vaccination rates are much lower. The statewide average of everyone eligible is about 63%, said Skoda.

Children 5 and younger are not yet eligible for a vaccination.

And while the uptick in recent COVID-19 cases is being carefully monitored, Skoda said it has so far not resulted in a dramatic increase in severe illness, hospitalizations or deaths. That, said Skoda, follows what is expected during the progression and mutation of any virus.

With respect to graduations and parties, Skoda said people should consider who is invited, including grandparents, and their risks and plan accordingly.

“When you think about graduation parties when you think hopefully, they are outdoors. When you think about the ceremonies, hopefully, they are in big arenas or outdoor areas where you are not always crowded in, but you should always be thinking, what is my risk?”