POLAND, Ohio (WKBN) – There’s been a modest increase in COVID numbers over the past few weeks both nationally and here in Ohio.

As schools are gearing up to welcome thousands of students back to class, officials are encouraging taking proper safety precautions.

Experts say the overall number of recent COVID cases isn’t too alarming right now, with 87% fewer cases this time compared to last year.

“These are increases from very low numbers, and we are still experiencing some of the lowest numbers of cases since the start of the pandemic,” said. Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Locally, Dr. James Kravec with Mercy Health said they have seen a slight uptick.

“In the community, we have seen a slight uptick in outpatient COVID cases. It really hasn’t translated into patients that are here at the hospital,” said Dr. James Kravec, Mercy Health Youngstown/Lorain.

While respiratory illnesses like COVID, RSV and influenza tend to spread more easily during this time of the year, health officials are constantly tracking the data.

“It is quite clear that COVID isn’t gone, and we do need to prepare ourselves for the upcoming fall and winter,” Vanderhoff said.

Thousands of kids will come in contact with each other during the school year and local schools are making sure to keep students as safe and healthy as possible.

“Anytime you get 2,000, 2,500 people all coming to a few schools, it’s something that we have to be ready for,” said Poland Superintendant Craig Hockenberry.

Schools are taking proper safety measures like ensuring all surfaces in their buildings are clean and disinfected. And medical experts are encouraging students to go “back to the basics” when it comes to stopping the spread of viral illnesses.

“Staying home when you are sick, covering your cough, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer, having a good diet, getting enough rest, getting the vaccines as recommended by our physicians,” Vanderhoff said.

If parents are considered about the health and safety of their child they are encouraged to reach out to their schools.