March 29 (UPI) — President Joe Biden announced Monday that 90% of adults will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine within the next three weeks. But he also called on local leaders to reinstate and maintain face mask mandates.
“This is not a time to lessen our efforts,” Biden said, citing an emotional warning of “impending doom” from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who spoke of a steady increase of coronavirus infections.
“Ten million shots in three days — that would have been inconceivable in January,” Biden said. “Our progress in vaccinations is a stunning example that there is nothing this country cannot do if we put our minds to it and do it together.”
With 31 states announcing they will open up eligibility to all adults by April 19, Biden said 90% of the U.S. adult population will be eligible for shots at locations close their homes by that date.
He called on states, tribes and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination no later than May 1.
The expanded availability is possible partly due to a doubling of the number of pharmacies enrolled in the U.S. vaccination program, which will grow to 40,000, he said. A dozen more mass vaccination sites will also open in the coming weeks. Still, the United States is in a “life-and-death race” with new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus and people are “letting up on precautions,” he said, urging states to reinstate mask mandates.
“I’m reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate,” he said. “Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.”
The president announced he is earmarking additional funding to provide transportation and vaccination assistance for “the nation’s most at-risk seniors and people with disabilities,” on top of last week’s allocation of $10 billion to expand COVID-19 vaccine access in “the hardest-hit and highest-risk communities.”
New York on Monday became the latest state to expand vaccine eligibility as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced all residents 30 years and older can receive the vaccine beginning Tuesday, while all those 16 and up can sign up for shots beginning April 6.
“Today we take a monumental step forward in the fight to beat COVID,” he said, declaring the state will “double down on making the vaccine accessible for every community to ensure equity, particularly for communities of color, who are too often left behind.
“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but until we get there it is more important than ever for each and every New Yorker to wear a mask, socially distance and follow all safety guidelines,” Cuomo said.
State leaders in California and Florida last week announced that all adults will be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine next month.