Dec. 15 (UPI) -- For the second straight day, COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States saw significant declines on Monday, according to updated data from Johns Hopkins University.
The data shows there were about 193,500 coronavirus cases and 1,400 deaths on Monday. Both figures were also down Sunday following five straight days of at least 219,000 cases and at least 2,300 deaths.
The United States has averaged 2,300 deaths per day during the past two weeks -- a 57% rise over the previous two, according to Stat.
More than 110,500 patients were in U.S. hospitals, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The hospitalization figure has set daily records for 18 straight days.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 16.52 million coronavirus cases and about 300,800 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.
With more hospitals receiving the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday and the FDA poised to approve a second vaccine, the nation's top infectious diseases expert called the progress "bittersweet."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC's Good Morning America Tuesday that while the vaccines represent "light at the end of the tunnel," the situation remains "terrible."
The vaccine, he said, "is going to ultimately get us through this. We know we're going to be able to put this behind us.
"But in the meantime, we still have a struggle ahead of us, so we've got to get people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as we possibly can."
"We have to adhere to the public health measures in order to blunt the acceleration of these terrible numbers that we hear every day," he added.
As Congress works toward a deal on a new economic relief package, investor and billionaire Warren Buffett urged lawmakers Tuesday to give more aid to small businesses.
"It's an economic war," he told CNBC, also asking lawmakers to extend the Paycheck Protection Program.
"I think the country owes it to the millions of small-business people ... just renew the PPP and get us to the end of the tunnel.
"When we went into World War II, a lot of industries were shut down; everything went to the defense production. Well, we've shut down a lot of people in this particular induced recession and others are prospering."
A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday introduced a two-part stimulus bill worth $908 billion. One part provides $748 billion for a range of programs, including the PPP.
In other COVID-19 developments Tuesday:
- An FDA review said the vaccine developed by Moderna is safe and effective enough for emergency use in the United States. The review affirmed Moderna's finding that the vaccine is about 94% effective and put it on the same track for the approval Pfizer-BioNTech received last week.
- Several states are planning to administer their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Tuesday as thousands of additional doses begin arriving at hospitals nationwide.
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says there are no plans for players or team personnel to be vaccinated before Super Bowl LV in February.