SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Outbreaks of COVID within schools are inevitable and pose real danger to unvaccinated family members, according to a Utah doctor who says that hospitals across our state will strain to handle another surge.

“I am worried,” said Dr. Andy Pavia, with U of U Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“I’m very worried about September,” he added.

By September, students across Utah will have returned to school — and, because of state law, they won’t be mandated to wear masks.

Pavia said as of Friday, 38% of 12 to 18 year-olds have at least one vaccine dose.

Still, since those under 12 can’t get vaccines yet, the probability of outbreaks is high and the ripple effect is huge.

55.7% of Utahns 12 and above have been vaccinated so far. With so many Utahns unvaccinated, health care workers are bracing for a potential surge in their ICUs.

“It’s like being a soldier. If you haven’t been to war, you don’t know what it’s like for our colleagues in the ICUs, who’ve dealt with this for 18 months. Quite frankly they’re burned out, many have left the profession. We are worried what will happen if things get a lot worse than they are now,” said Pavia.

He encourages parents to speak with their kid’s primary care physician to ask questions regarding the vaccine.

“That’s a really trusted source because he knows your kids. That’s where we’re gonna make a really big impact,” said Pavia.

As for those under 12, he says it’s possible they could be authorized for vaccines by early winter. For now, though, he recommends masking.

“In an ideal world, we would have everybody who isn’t vaccinated or can’t be vaccinated mask when they’re indoors in the classroom.”