HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – Students will be returning to class in the coming weeks across Mississippi as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizer have been the way of the school environment for the last two years.

“The numbers are increasing everyday. I mean, it’s starting to look like last year or the year before when the numbers were high. A lot of the numbers aren’t being captured though because a lot of people are testing at home, which is good, but a lot of these positive test results are not being reported. So, it’s being highly predicted that the numbers are actually higher than what’s being reported,” said Dr. Timothy Quinn, of Quinn Healthcare in Ridgeland.

Forrest County is now considered a high risk area for COVID-19. Doctors said you don’t have to wait for schools to mandate masks. They said it’s your call.

According to the CDC, of the 65,000 children estimated to live in Forrest County, only half them are vaccinated. Doctors said the way to avoid back to school disruptions is getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“For all children, down to six months of age, are eligible to be vaccinated for COVID, and even though that’s not a guarantee of anything, it is one added layer of protection that will help your child,” said Dr. John Gaudet, a pediatrician at American Academy of Pediatrics-Mississippi Chapter.