New York announced on Monday that it will make all adult residents eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by April 6, a symbolic shift in the state’s recovery from a deadly pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of residents and crippled the state’s economy.
Yet the expansion will significantly test the state’s health apparatus, which will face a flood of newly eligible residents seeking appointments while the vaccine supply has still not exceeded demand.
The race to vaccinate New Yorkers comes at a critical time during the pandemic, while the state is recording new cases of the virus at one of the highest rates in the country, with several more contagious variants of the virus continuing to spread.
“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,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement on Monday.
The expanded vaccination program puts New York on track to beat President Biden’s goal of making every adult in the country eligible for a vaccine by May 1. Before Monday, it was one of only a few states that had not yet set a timeline to do so.
New York will first allow residents who are 30 and older to begin receiving vaccinations on Tuesday. It will then expand to all those 16 and older on April 6.
Even as Mr. Cuomo gradually loosened vaccine eligibility criteria over the last month, lowering age thresholds and broadening the pool of workers who qualified, he expressed reluctance to set a specific target date for doing away with the state’s requirements.
The governor said last week that he did not want to outline a timeline for more widespread vaccination until he was more confident that New York would have adequate vaccine supply on hand for its population.
“I just want to make sure that the allocation projections that we’re getting from the feds are right, frankly,” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference last week. “I don’t want to say ‘We’re going to open up to 30-year-olds in three weeks,’ and then something happens with the allocation.”
A spokesman for the governor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even before expanding eligibility, the state had faced concerns over its ability to provide shots to those who needed them most. Those seeking appointments had to check dozens of websites, with the state and New York City having completely distinct scheduling systems, both of which favored residents who had high-speed internet access or who had ample time to sit and refresh sites for appointments.
As of Monday, 29.6 percent of people in New York State had received at least one shot of a vaccine, while 16.8 percent were fully vaccinated, according to the state Health Department’s data.
The state also faced significant concerns over providing equitable access to vaccinations, particularly in low-income communities of color in New York City that were hit the hardest by the virus but where inoculations have lagged.
The city’s health data shows that of the nearly 2.1 million residents who received one dose of a vaccine and whose race was recorded, about 37 percent were white, 19 percent were Latino, 19 percent were Asian and 14 percent were Black. Latino and Black residents were especially underrepresented: The city’s population is roughly 29 percent Latino and 24 percent Black.
The further expansion of vaccination comes as New York has been adding new virus cases at one of the highest rates among U.S. states. As of Monday, the state had a seven-day average of 49 new virus cases a day for every 100,000 residents, second by a fraction of a percent to New Jersey, according to a New York Times database.
The United States as a whole was averaging 19 new cases per 100,000 people, though cases are rising again as variants spread and as many state leaders have eased up on restrictions.
Even as the number of new cases continues to rise in New York, the state has not faced anywhere near the level of devastation that it experienced a year ago, when hospitals were overwhelmed with patients and morgues were overflowing.
Mr. Cuomo has for months said that vaccinations would be key to the state’s ability to reopen shuttered businesses and raise capacity limits. Last month, the governor allowed sporting events and concerts to resume at large venues with limited capacity. Earlier this month, movie theaters, among the first businesses to shut last year, were able to bring back audiences, also at limited capacity.
Restaurants in New York City are also allowed to serve diners indoors at 50 percent capacity, their highest level of indoor dining since Mr. Cuomo closed them last year at the onset of the pandemic. (In the rest of the state, the maximum capacity is at 75 percent.)