▶ Watch Video: Florida schools reopen amid COVID surge and debate over mask use

Many children in Florida returned to school Tuesday without masks despite the surging number of COVID cases and hospitalizations. Florida leads the nation in pediatric hospitalizations, with more than 300 reported in the last week.

Pediatric doctor Pia Myers got emotional as she recorded a video message for the public about the challenges she sees in Collier County Hospitals.

“I encourage everybody to please take this Delta variant very seriously due to the transmissibility. It is incredibly contagious, and our children are getting sick. I can’t do this,” she said.

Children now account for nearly 15% of all new infections nationwide. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is pushing for the Food and Drug Administration to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

In Florida, the debate to require students to wear masks despite the state’s ban on mask mandates is escalating after the Broward County School Board voted 8 to 1 on Tuesday in favor of the mask requirement and approved filing legal action to challenge Florida’s ban.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has said he views mask on children as a “parent’s decision,” threatened to pull funding from districts with such requirements and withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who defied him.

The issue is personal for Andrew Spar, who is the president of the Florida Education Association. His wife is a public school teacher, and his youngest daughter is entering seventh grade. He said that educators in Florida are going to be there for students “as they have always done.” 

“I’m concerned about my daughter, who is vaccinated and will be wearing a mask, and the fact that there will be others who are not vaccinated and are not wearing a mask. And so we want to make sure that everyone is safe,” Spar told CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez.

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they had seen some positive changes — the pace of first COVID vaccine doses is nearly double what it was 30 days ago.