Texas, Indiana and Georgia announced Tuesday that residents 16 years and older will be eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations starting Thursday for Georgia residents, Monday for Texans and on March 31 for Indianans. They joining a growing list of states that plan to broaden vaccine eligibility to all adults ahead of a May 1 deadline set by President Biden.
“With every dose, Texas gets closer to normal and protects more lives from COVID-19 hospitalization and death,” the state’s health department said in a Twitter post.
West Virginia, Alaska and Mississippi are the only states where all adults are eligible to receive shots. Others, like Texas, Georgia and Indiana, have announced future expansions; Utah, for example, will open eligibility to all adults on Wednesday. And Tennessee announced last week that all residents 16 and older would be eligible for vaccinations starting April 5. Some states, such as New York, have been gradually expanding eligibility: New Yorkers 50 years and older became eligible on Tuesday.
Widening the eligibility for vaccines comes at a time when federal health officials have warned of a possible fourth surge of the virus as troubling new variants spread, urging Americans to get vaccinated. Mr. Biden has said there would be enough vaccines available by the end of May for all adults and has suggested that Americans could see a return to normalcy by July 4 if they got vaccinated and kept following health precautions, like mask wearing.
Virus case numbers in the country “have plateaued — that’s not good, they should keep going down and down,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases and a top adviser to Mr. Biden, said Tuesday on “Good Morning America.” As of Monday, the seven-day average of new virus cases nationwide was 54,000 a day, according to a New York Times database, a level comparable to that of mid-October.
“When you plateau like that, there really is a danger of a resurgence,” Dr. Fauci said.
About 25 percent of the total U.S. population has received at least one shot, and 14 percent are fully vaccinated. The pace of vaccinations has been steadily increasing in recent weeks to an average of about 2.5 million shots daily, well above the daily rate of fewer than one million shots two months ago. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Tuesday that a total of 27 million doses would be allocated to states, pharmacies and other jurisdictions and programs, 4 million of which would be of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
In Texas, about 22 percent of all residents have received at least one shot of a vaccine, and 11 percent are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state’s mask mandate and scrapped crowd capacity limits on all businesses, a move that drew criticism from federal officials, including the president. “Texas is OPEN 100%,” Mr. Abbott tweeted at the time.
About 19 percent of Georgians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to a Times database. Gov. Brian Kemp said that as of Tuesday, more than one million older residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
“As you all know, this is our ticket back to normal,” Mr. Kemp said. “And we’re getting closer to that point every single day.”
Businesses in much of the country are open and more than a dozen states have no mask mandates in, a Times database showed.
In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the state’s mask mandate will drop to an advisory on April 6. But face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings, facilities, vaccination and testing sites “until further notice” and in schools for the remainder of the year.
In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that the state would ease some restrictions beginning on Friday, including increasing the number of people permitted at mass gatherings, and reinstating normal hours for when alcohol may be served at bars and restaurants. Mr. Cooper continues to enforce a statewide mask order.
In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam announced some changes on Tuesday, including allowing sports and entertainment venues to operate with additional capacity and increasing the number of people allowed at events indoors and outdoors. He also issued preliminary guidance on in-person graduation ceremonies and commencements and will continue universal mask wearing.
On Monday, the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said members of Mr. Biden’s virus team have reached out to governors and other state officials about the spread and detection of variants and sought to persuade them “to slow down the relaxation.”
“We just don’t want to be at this rapid uptick of cases again, and that is very possible that that could happen,” she said. “We’ve seen that. We’re behind the eight ball when that starts to happen.”