Governors across the United States are speeding up eligibility for coronavirus vaccines as the number of new cases nationally plateaus, adding more urgency to vaccination efforts.
California will open up vaccine eligibility on April 1 to any resident who is 50 or older, and will expand that to residents 16 or older on April 15, state officials announced on Thursday, saying they could do so because of increasing supplies of vaccine from the federal government. And Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced that any state resident who is 40 or older would be eligible starting on Monday, and that the minimum age would drop to 18 on April 5.
In Connecticut, which is among the most-vaccinated states in the country, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that all residents 16 and above would be eligible beginning April 1. New Hampshire will make shots available to all residents 16 and older starting April 2, and North Carolina on April 7. In Rhode Island, Gov. Dan McKee said the state was on track to make vaccines available to all residents over 16 by April 19.
Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said the state would open vaccinations to those 40 and older starting Monday, adding that a mask mandate would stay in place for at least another 30 days. And in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce on Friday that all residents over the age of 16 will be eligible starting March 30.
Alaska, Mississippi, Utah and West Virginia are the only states where all adults are now eligible to receive shots, but many more have announced plans to expand eligibility on or before May 1, a goal set by President Biden. Some local jurisdictions have also begun vaccinating all adults.
The nation is averaging about 2.5 million doses of vaccine a day. At that pace, about half of the nation’s population would be at least partially vaccinated by mid-May.
California will also allow health care providers to use their discretion to vaccinate family members of eligible people right away, even if the family members would not yet otherwise be eligible, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
State officials said they expected California to start receiving 2.5 million doses a week in the first part of April, and more than three million by the second half of the month, a major increase from the current pace of about 1.8 million doses a week.
Mr. Newsom has been under intense pressure for weeks to speed up the state’s vaccination efforts. Experts say his ability to fend off a recall campaign may hinge on vaccinating millions of residents and lifting remaining restrictions, so that the state will be closer to normal when voters are asked to decide his fate.
The governor has repeatedly said that short and unpredictable supplies have been to blame for what has been criticized as a confusing and chaotic vaccination process that has left many poorer communities to lag behind.
State officials abruptly announced earlier this month that 40 percent of the state’s new vaccine doses would go to vulnerable communities, but the move frustrated local officials in the Bay Area, which had almost none of the prioritized communities.
Dr. Jeffrey V. Smith, the Santa Clara County executive, recently described the program as “a fake equity plan.” Mayor Vicente Sarmiento of Santa Ana, the seat of Orange County and home to many lower-income Latinos, praised the plan.
Florida, more than most states, has emphasized age, rather than occupation or other risk factors, in its approach to vaccine eligibility. The state began by concentrating on people 65 and over, and then lowered the age threshold to 50. As of Wednesday, 24 percent of Florida’s total population has received at least one shot, and 14 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of new virus cases reported in Florida has been hovering around 4,600 a day in recent weeks, a level that health officials say is still too high, even though it has fallen significantly from a peak earlier this year.
The state’s efforts to reopen its tourism industry has not been without problems. In Miami Beach, local officials have been overwhelmed with spring break revelers who have ignored safety precautions like mask wearing and social distancing. It got so bad that the city imposed a curfew and sent police officers in riot gear to disperse crowds.