Gov. Evers announced Tuesday that all Wisconsinites above the age of 16 will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination on April 5.
Wisconsin Department of Health Services say the decision was made based on the steadiness of vaccine supply that will come into the state over the months of April and May. As of Tuesday morning, over 2.7 million Wisconsinites have already received at least one dose of a vaccine, and over a million are fully vaccinated.
“Wisconsin, [this is] huge. We could fill Lambeau Field 12 times over with fully vaccinated people, and I couldn’t be prouder,” Evers said in a media briefing Tuesday afternoon. “While we still have a heck of a long way to go to get everybody vaccinated, every day we’re closer than the day before to getting back to our Wisconsin way of life.”
DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said that along with the supply chain strengthening, there weren’t many more sub-groups the state could make eligible before the general population.
“We’re done with deciding who’s in and who’s out, it’s time for everyone to get vaccinated,” she said. “We want the message to be that everyone is welcome to get a vaccine.”
According to the DHS vaccine dashboard, nearly 340,000 vaccines were given to Wisconsin residents last week, and that number is expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks.
Van Dijk said that while Moderna and Pfizer were both reaching maximum capacity for production, Wisconsin is expecting anywhere from 350,000-700,000 more Johnson & Johnson shots in April and May than were available the previous two months.
“We have built-up a strong network of vaccine providers across the state,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in a press release. “Every community is different, some providers may have openings and others may have waitlists but I assure you that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one in the coming weeks.”
Van Dijk said that those with preexisting conditions would still be prioritized to get a vaccine over the general population when guidelines are relaxed next week. She encouraged anyone that is already eligible and seeking a vaccination to contact their provider and schedule an appointment before appointments are secured by members of the general population.
While general population vaccinations start April 5, Van Dijk said anyone with a preexisting condition would get priority over the general population regardless of when they contact their provider.
You can visit the DHS website here to learn more about how to schedule a vaccination.
President Biden and top health officials issued a warning Monday morning that the country might see a fourth surge in coronavirus cases, and Wisconsin is no exception.
The seven-day average of positive cases in Wisconsin has risen slightly for the first time since early January over the last week, and just last week DHS announced the third COVID-19 strain had been found in Wisconsin.
“Are there warning signs of a surge here in Wisconsin and across the nation? Yes, there is a growing number of cases per day,” Van Dijk said in the briefing. “But we know what we can do about it, which is why we can't let preventive measures slip now.”
Both Van Dijk and Evers stressed the importance of continuing to wear PPE — like a mask — in public places, and not traveling over the Easter holiday.
“I know it’s not the message we want to hear, but travel is still not a safe activity over this holiday season,” Van Dijk said. “Gathering for a meal inside should only happen if everyone at the table is fully vaccinated.”
However, Evers’ newest mask mandate is set to expire on April 5, and the State Supreme Court is expected to rule on if the Governor can issue consecutive public health declarations Wednesday.
Evers said he would monitor the situation in the courts, and said he would wait to make the decision to possibly reinstate the mask mandate until April 5.
”Folks, don't give up now, we need everyone to stay vigilant,” Evers said. “We can beat this virus, we just have to do it together.”