NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all those 30 years and older beginning Tuesday, and all those 16 and up can begin to schedule appointments on April 6, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
Vaccine eligibility had previously been restricted to people over 50, people in certain job categories and those with health conditions that put them at risk for serious illness if they were to become infected with the coronavirus. Previously, 12.2 million out of over 15 million New Yorkers over the age of 16 were eligible for COVID-19 vaccination as of last week.
People over the age of 30 can begin booking appointments at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
"Today we take a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID," the Democratic governor said in a news release, adding that the new timetable was "well ahead of the May 1 deadline set by the White House."
Nearly three out of 10 New Yorkers have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, in line with the national average, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Additionally, Cuomo said more than 2 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered at New York State-run and FEMA-assisted mass vaccination sites. Statewide, more than 9 million total doses have been administered across all vaccination sites.
Acting Counsel to the Governor Beth Garvey, also announced that the state will expand eligibility to include all incarcerated individuals in both state and local facilities.
Still, due to limited supply, New Yorkers are encouraged to remain patient and are advised not to show up at vaccination sites without an appointment.
The announcement comes as New York and New Jersey once again have the highest rates of coronavirus infection in the country, and on Monday, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams assisted in launching a Mask Up initiative to provide PPE to the NYCHA developments hardest hit by COVID-19.
The Empire State has averaged 548 cases for every 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, topped only by New Jersey with 647 cases per 100,000.
The vaccination effort continues to ramp up, with New York City inoculating 478,000 people last week, a new high for a seven-day period.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his goal is to vaccinate 500,000 per week, so the city is just about there, with some vaccination centers running 24/7.
Nearly 4 million people have been vaccinated in New York City so far, and the federal government has also said that supplies will increase in the coming days and weeks.
Still, concern remains as the number of new daily infections remains high.
It's not clear why New York and New Jersey are spiking, whether there is more testing in the area, if there is an influx in travelers who have visited places with fewer restrictions, or if the states are opening too soon.
"We know it's Holy Week, it's a very special, powerful time," de Blasio said. "Families gather, folks are looking forward to Easter. It's so important to understand. This is the last time we're going to be dealing with COVID the way we have for the last year. Every day we're making progress, but we're not there yet. It's still going to take some months to get as many people vaccinated as we need to and really turn things around. So during this holiday time, everyone should focus on safety. Still keep the gathering small, observe social distancing. Wear a mask."
The mayor and the health commissioner are urging caution.
"Smaller is better," Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said. "Stay within your household as much as possible. Stay in groups that are in the single digits with respect to people who are getting together. And let's not forget the fact that testing has helped us ensure safety as well. So keep getting tested this week."
Neither state is experiencing anything like what they saw last spring, when hospitals -- and morgues -- were overflowing. And like the rest of the country, both are in a much better place than in January, at the peak of the pandemic's winter spike.
But the lack of improvement or even backsliding in recent weeks has raised concerns that the states are opening too quickly and people are letting down their guard too much, just as potentially more contagious variants of the virus are circulating more widely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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