By Wilson Walker

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — As new COVID cases continue to surge in Santa Clara County Wednesday, health officials confirmed a record 1,700 new cases and reported that three South Bay hospitals had reached ICU capacity.

According to the county COVID dashboard, there were a record 1,700 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours in the county of some 2 million residents. The county also reported 76 new hospitalizations and three additional death on Wednesday.

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Doctors say the real problem is that the trend that has pushed the hospitals to their ICU limit shows no sign of slowing.

“We are continuing to see more and more patients at record numbers, every day, coming into our emergency rooms and into our hospitals,” said Santa Clara County Director of Health Preparedness Dr. Ahmad Kamal.

The steady rise in hospitalizations over the past 30 days is best understood in the context of the past seven months. The winter surge left Santa Clara County with just 31 available ICU beds Tuesday, and three hospitals with no ICU space at all.

San Jose Regional Medical Center was already at capacity as of Wednesday morning. Santa Clara County health officials confirmed that two other hospitals had filled all available ICU beds.

“As of yesterday there were three hospitals with no ICU beds available. These were O’Connor Hospital, regional Medical Center, and St. Louis hospital,” said Kamal.

The available ICU capacity at Santa Clara County hospitals on Wednesday had dropped to 10 percent — well below the state’s red flag level of 15 percent.

Those being treated for life-threatening COVID infections were taking up 28 percent of all the ICU beds in the county.

And larger numbers of patients almost certainly lie ahead, as the acceleration of cases that started before the holidays is not stopping.

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“Understand, it’s not only transmission that occurred at Thanksgiving, but secondary transmission from people that became infected at Thanksgiving. So it accumulates, right? This is all the business about the effective reproductive number, and we and how many secondary cases there are,” explained UCSF epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford.

Something else to keep in mind: while ICU beds are critical, hospitals are far more likely to run out of available staffing before all of the beds are full.

“The hospitals and the caregivers and the nurses and the doctors are telling us that they are at their limit. They are telling us they are overwhelmed,” said Dr. Kamal.

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County officials warned that if the current trajectory does not change, capacity of some kind will be reached.

“But we certainly are looking at all options, including transferring out of the county should have become necessary,” said Kamal.

Santa Clara County is not alone.

San Francisco Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax on Wednesday warned that the city was entering the worst COVID-19 case surge to date and that as many as 1,500 residents could die by the spring if safety measures aren’t followed.

California saw another record day of new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with 30,851 cases confirmed and nearly 200 deaths in just the last 24 hours.

The 14-day average positivity rate has risen to nearly 9 percent.

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The greater Sacramento area was the latest region to fall under the 15 percent ICU capacity threshold for the state’s stay-at-home order on Wednesday.