A pharmacist readies a dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at the Cottages of Lake St. Louis Retirement Center in Lake St. Louis, Mo., on Monday, the first day the vaccine became available at retirement homes and skilled care facilities. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Despite a sizable increase, the number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States is under 200,000 for the fourth time in five days, according to updated data Tuesday.
There were 168,800 new coronavirus cases nationwide on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The figure is an increase of almost 19,000 over Sunday, but signals a slowdown of the virus' spread.
About 1,700 patients died on Monday, according to the data, an increase of several hundred from the day before.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 19.31 million coronavirus cases in the United States and about 335,100 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
The number of patients in U.S. hospitals increased on Monday to about 121,000, a record, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the United States is still well behind the vaccination pace officials wanted to achieve by this time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 2.1 million people received their first vaccine dose by early Monday -- far fewer than the government's goal of 20 million by the end of December.
"[The U.S.] is certainly not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December," Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN.
Two vaccines have so far been approved for use in the United States, and Fauci believes there will be a significant uptick in January.
"As we get into January, we are going to see an increase in the momentum," he said. "I hope [this] allows us to catch up to the projected pace that we had spoken about a month or two ago when we were talking about the planned rollout of the vaccinations."
In California, five Los Angeles County hospitals declared an internal disaster -- closing the facilities to all ambulance traffic -- amid a shortage of oxygen.
The issue has particularly plagued aging hospitals where health officials have said, patients require such a high rate of oxygen that systems cannot maintain sufficient pressure in their pipes and that the high flow causes the pipes to freeze.
"If it freezes, then you can't have good flow of oxygen," Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County health services director, said.
Ghaly added that some hospitals are required to move patients to lower floors because it is easier to deliver oxygen without needing to send it to higher floors.
The county is averaging 14,000 new COVID-19 cases a day and coronavirus patients require 60 liters to 80 liters of oxygen per minute, while non-COVID patients require 6 liters.