SALEM — All Oregonians age 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 19, a week earlier than the previous earliest date, Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday.

"We are locked in a race between vaccine distribution and the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants," Brown said.

Oregon previously did not plan on opening vaccine eligibility to all aged 16 and over until July 1. Biden directed all states to lift any limits beyond the minimum age by May 1. Brown had announced that counties that were ready to expand vaccinations could apply to move the date to April 26.

Now, April 19 marks the start of open eligibility.

Oregon will continue to use its current eligibility system until then. People with underlying medical conditions, essential workers and other groups are currently on the list. Anyone age 65 and older remains eligible.

"My office will work closely with the White House to ensure Oregon receives our fair share of federal vaccine supplies, so we can continue with a fast, fair, and equitable vaccine distribution process."

Later today, the Governor’s Office and the Oregon Health Authority will announce county risk level movements based on the continued spread of COVID-19 in Oregon communities. The initial statistics issued Monday show a rise in the number of infections and the infection rate around the state.

The new April 19 target date was announced early Tuesday by President Joe Biden. The White House is also set to announce that 150 million shots have been administered since Biden took office on Jan. 20. He had promised to get 100 million shots into American's arms by his 100th day in office, April 30.

The push to open up eligibility comes as Brown has announced a "fourth wave" of COVID-19 infections was hitting the nation and state, ending a long downward trend since Jan. 1. The state is experiencing over 400 cases per day and rising hospitalizations. An Oregon Health & Sciences University forecast released last week estimated the spike will lead to an average of 1,000 cases per day by next month.

This article will be updated.

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