(The Center Square) - On a day when the nation as a whole did the same, California on Wednesday set a record for the most coronavirus deaths in one day.
State health officials reported 432 deaths Wednesday, more than 10 percent of the 3,740 deaths reported nationwide. Wednesday also marked the second consecutive day the country set a new one-day record for fatalities. The previous one-day high for California was 379, reported on Dec. 17.
Since the pandemic began, California has recorded 2,262,972 cases, including 31,268 on Wednesday, and 25,423 deaths. Just over 300,000 people, or about 1 percent of the state's adults, have received the vaccine.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed that a California man is the second person in the country to be diagnosed with a new strain of coronavirus. The new variant, which was first identified in the United States in Colorado, is said to be more infectious but does not seem to make people sicker.
More rapid transmission could overwhelm an already burdened health care system, Newsom said. Hospitals in several parts of California have little or no intensive care unit bed capacity, and media reports indicate hospitals in Los Angeles are turning away ambulances. EMTs have also been instructed not to transport patients who do not have a pulse.
Statewide, a record 20,612 coronavirus patients are hospitalized, a 38 percent increase from two weeks ago, with nearly a quarter of them in ICU.
Newsom on Wednesday also unveiled plans that could reopen K-12 schools for in-person learning by February or March.
The governor wants to increase school funding by $2 billion to support the plan, and wants to focus the reopening on elementary students first, along with students with disabilities, those in foster care and those who are homeless.
The reopening would only be allowed in counties with a rolling seven-day average of fewer than 28 new cases per 100,000 residents. Currently, only nine of the state's largest counties meet that number.
The plan also calls for daily testing of students and staff and face mask requirements. School staff will also be prioritized during the next phase of vaccine distribution.
Lockdown orders were extended indefinitely Tuesday for two regions, Southern California and the San Juaquin Valley, both of which are reporting 0 percent ICU capacity. The Bay Area and Greater Sacramento Area also face possible extensions.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a briefing urged people to stay home for New Year's Eve and avoid large gatherings, noting that the recent surge is tied to people not heeding that advice over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
"Nobody should be gathering in a big party, and nobody should be gathering in a small party, as well," he said. "These are the ways the virus will spread to your loved ones, to those closest to you."
Garcetti also said the LAPD will deploy "significant patrolling" Thursday night to enforce public health orders that prohibit "super-spreader" events.