LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — The School District of Lancaster is now encouraging students older than 16-years-old to register for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I want our kids to get the vaccine so they feel safe coming back and being in school,” Dr. Damaris Rau, the Superintendent for the School District of Lancaster, said.

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High schoolers in the School District of Lancaster are currently in class two days a week and do the rest of their learning online.

Based on the Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines, students 16-years-old will become eligible for shots on April 19, but with thousands of appointments available at Vaccinate Lancaster Rau said she wants students to register for shots now.

“For kids to be back in school across the county, across the country, they need to be vaccinated so they feel safe,” Rau said.

Meanwhile, healthcare providers at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Wellspan, and Penn State Health are seeing more COVID-19 patients in their hospitals.

Chief clinical officer at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Dr. Michael Ripchinski said they are seeing four times the amount of patients hospitalized than they did last month.

“The increase in hospitalizations is probably related to multiple reasons,” Ripchinski said. “For the most part we’re seeing the spread of the variants and the U.K. variants are definitely becoming more prevalent across the country and in Pennsylvania, but also I think people are tired. We’re getting tired of wearing masks, we’re getting tired of social distancing.”

Ripchinski said it’s important to stay vigilant against the virus and for people to get vaccinated as soon as they can.

“We want to make sure everyone can get vaccinated,” Ripchinski said. “If you’ve gotten vaccinated remember it takes several weeks after your second vaccine if you got Pfizer or Moderna to make sure you’re fully protected.”