By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — As the first of Orange County’s frontline health care workers received newly arrived COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday, another 23 deaths were reported and area hospitals continued to shatter patient records.

Health officials reported an additional 3,231 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative caseload to 111,168.

The fatalities reported Wednesday, which date back to earlier this month, raised the death toll to 1,718.

Hospitalizations in the county also continued to rise. The number of patients hospitalized with the virus jumped from 1,371 on Tuesday to 1,486 on Wednesday. Of those hospitalized, 319 were ICU patients, up from 296 the previous day.

Both are new records — a daily occurrence since last week.

Prior to this month, the record for ICU patients in Orange County was 245 during the mid-July surge. Since Dec. 2, overall hospitalizations have been breaking records daily.

Meanwhile, the county’s ICU bed availability dropped from 10.4% Tuesday to 9.5% in the unadjusted category, and slipped down from 1.4% in the “adjusted” metric back down to zero. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.

The percentage of available ICU beds in the Southern California region, which consists of 11-counties, dropped from 1.7% to 0.5%.

Since Sunday, 38 deaths have been reported in Orange County. Last week, the county reported 62 fatalities, up from 41 and 26, respectively, in the two previous weeks.

Most of the fatalities reported since Friday were in the 75 and older category, but at least one was 25 to 34 years old.

The county is also dealing with an uptick in outbreaks at skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. As of Tuesday, 32 skilled nursing facilities have had two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 36 assisted living facilities had two or more cases.

Dr. Jeremy Zoch, Providence St. Joseph Hospital’s CEO, urged residents to stay at home as much as possible, especially over the holidays.

“When (the hospital’s caregivers) are normally celebrating the holidays, they’re taking extra shifts and working in unexpected roles,” Zoch said. “Stay at home. Stay safe and help us reduce the spread so we can keep up and care for the community here.”

Zoch said the latest surge of patients “has been pretty incredible.”

“Last summer, when we had our surge over July, we had the National Guard in here helping us … But, frankly, this surge we have 75% more patients than the last surge. It has challenged us.”

Zoch said his hospital’s ICU beds “are really close to full … We’re fortunate we have CHOC Children’s next to us and we’ve talked with them about giving us space to use if needed.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)