Pediatric hospitals in Florida have become completely overwhelmed with young patients battling COVID-19 amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, a doctor says.

Iran PressAmerica: The grim development comes as Florida on Sunday reported having the highest number of children - 172- hospitalized with the coronavirus.

“The numbers of cases in our hospitals in children and our children’s hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” said Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, to CNN late Friday.

“Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted, and the children are suffering. And it is absolutely devastating … Our children are very much affected. We’ve never seen numbers like this before,” she said.

According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, sharp rises in hospital admissions involving kids with COVID-19 have been recorded in other states, too — including Arkansas, which had its own record number of children Wednesday hospitalized with the virus.

“We’re seeing a real surge with the Delta variant that we did not see previously,” said Dr. Rick Barr, a chief clinical officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, to CNN at the end of last month. “This is the worst that we’ve seen it for kids, absolutely.”

“[Parents are] shocked because the messaging out there has been that kids don’t really get sick with Covid, and we didn’t see serious illnesses, except for rare instances, with the previous variants,” he said. 

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson admitted Wednesday that he was wrong for previously banning mask mandates in the state. 

Experts have urged people in areas with high positivity rates for COVID-19 to wear masks regardless of vaccination status in order to protect vulnerable groups, such as children too young to receive the shot.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced criticism for forbidding school districts in his state from requiring masks for students and school workers amid the crisis, saying it should be up to the parents and employees to decide.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana on Sunday blasted DeSantis for standing in the way of mask mandates.

The state’s hospitalizations also reached their highest point in the pandemic last week, with more than 12,864 confirmed COVID-19 patients as of Friday.