Credit: Photo illustration by Julia Terbrock

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Mayor Muriel Bowser announced she’ll be moving up D.C.’s date for when all residents 16 and older are eligible to get vaccinated on the same day she said she’ll be lifting even more coronavirus restrictions.  

Come April 19, all D.C. residents 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The original date was May 1, and coincides with reports that the White House is moving up the eligibility date for all adults by nearly two weeks. The Bowser administration is encouraging D.C. residents and workers to pre-register on vaccinate.dc.gov, so they can be offered a vaccine appointment. As of Monday, 190,621 people have pre-registered on the portal or call center and are awaiting appointments. (Did you pre-register but get vaccinated outside the portal and call center? Email vaccinatedc@dc.gov to get yourself off the list.) 

Just because officials are opening up eligibility does not mean that everyone who wants to get vaccinated will have access to the life-saving drug. Last week, DC Health suggested as much. “We can open eligibility to everyone tomorrow, for example, but that doesn’t mean we have any more vaccine,” Patrick Ashley, who leads DC Health’s emergency preparedness response, told the Council after members asked if the agency was interested in moving up the city’s eligibility date. 

The District’s supply has increased in recent weeks, and there are more opportunities available outside of the government portal and call center to book a vaccine appointment. Last week, the federal government increased its supply to DC Health by nearly half, for a total of 39,690 doses. 

Select pharmacies and community health centers are also receiving doses directly from the federal government, in addition to DC Health. The Bowser administration, however, is not highlighting many of these opportunities. It’s unclear whether officials know which pharmacies are participating in the federal program and booking appointments. Walgreens, for example, is getting doses directly from the federal government, and people can request alerts about when the company makes appointments available.   

A mass site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is scheduled to open Wednesday, April 7 at Greenbelt Metro station in Prince George’s County. The site has the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 per day. While the site is in Maryland, D.C. residents can still pre-register at onestop.md.gov/preregistration for the vaccine there. Maryland officials aren’t encouraging D.C. residents to get vaccinated at their sites, but they aren’t turning them away either. In fact, many D.C. residents are getting vaccinated outside of the city. DC Health will also open a “high-capacity” vaccination site at Arena Stage this Friday in collaboration with MedStar Health. 

Bowser made the eligibility announcement on Twitter Monday night, just hours after holding a press conference where she announced she’ll be relaxing some coronavirus restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings this spring. 

Starting May 1, seated theaters can open at 25% capacity, up to 500 people. Movie theaters, wedding and special event venues, and regional businesses conventions, can also accommodate up to 25 percent capacity. Indoor and outdoor pools, recreation centers, libraries, museums, galleries, exhibits, and nonessential retail can open at 50 percent capacity, according to the mayor’s expected revised order.

Bowser acknowledged that positive cases will increase, but she’s optimistic that as residents continue to get the vaccine, the numbers will decrease. The news comes as new positive cases have increased in the region and public health experts warn against loosening restrictions. In D.C., new cases are being driven by people younger than 40

—Amanda Michelle Gomez and Mitch Ryals (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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