Updated: 11:55 a.m.It’s news hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans have been waiting for.All Minnesotans 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting next Tuesday, March 30. It marks a huge step forward in the state’s vaccination strategy.”It’s a great day, Minnesota,” Gov. Tim Walz said Friday in formally announcing the expansion of eligibility.“We’re here to end this pandemic,” Walz said. “Today is one of the days when we can start to make the big leap forward.”Walz outlined the details of the new plan in a speech and news conference. He said a “dramatic increase” in vaccine supply from the federal government is expected heading into April. “They’re in the pipeline and they’re coming, and we’re going to see that starting next week.”Walz emphasized that the expansion doesn’t mean everyone will be getting a vaccine next week — but “it means you’re in line.” He said there’s enough confidence in vaccine supply and the state’s distribution system to justify the dramatic expansion.“Families — you can go together and get everyone vaccinated. … There’s no barriers, there’s no cost,” Walz said. “This is how we break the back of this pandemic. … Vaccines in arms is how we beat this thing.”Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the expansion will provide maximum flexibility to health care providers and other vaccination sites, to get shots into arms as fast as possible.But the race continues between vaccinations and the spread of COVID variants in Minnesota. Walz emphasized the importance of continuing to wear masks and follow other safety measures — as well as getting tested after possible coronavirus exposure. “None of those things stop” as vaccinations continue, he said. “We have the most robust testing system in the country — use it.”With the infrastructure in place for testing and for delivering the increasing supply of vaccine, Walz said, “this is the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the time we’ve been waiting for.”He called on Minnesotans to talk with their families, friends and neighbors to encourage them to get vaccinated as soon as they can.Vaccine rolloutRight now, people with certain health conditions, as well as people whose age, jobs or living arrangements make them more vulnerable to getting COVID-19, are eligible to get vaccinated.The state’s initial rollout plan included first opening up to more people with more underlying health conditions — and more people in professions that put them at higher risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.But this new development moves ahead that timeline, which originally put the general public in line to be eligible for vaccination in the summer.State health officials Thursday urged patience at the expansion on the horizon. Eligibility, they warned, does not mean instant access — and vaccine supply still does not meet the current demand.State health leaders said Thursday that, by early April, Minnesota should expect to see a significant jump in its current vaccine supply: Around 500,000 doses total, 200,000 of which will go to people who need second shots, and the remaining 300,000 of which for people who need their first shots. The state is now scheduled to receive a little over 300,000 doses for this coming week, roughly half of which are allocated for people who need their second shots. As of earlier this week, about 33 percent of Minnesota’s population of people 16 and older have gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a two-shot regimen, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one.In addition, Walz’s office said in a statement late Thursday that Minnesota will continue to offer guidance to health care providers that prioritizes vaccinating older people, people with underlying health conditions and people with frontline jobs. The new expansion, state leaders said, offers providers more flexibility in their vaccination strategy.So far, the state has vaccinated about 80 percent of people 65 and older, one of its earliest priority groups. State health officials said Thursday they are nearing the end of a campaign to offer vaccine to everyone who lives and works in long-term care settings.Meanwhile, state health leaders said, reaching hard-to-target populations, including communities of color, is still a challenge — and a top priority. They said Thursday that keeping their sights on equitable access to the vaccine will continue to be a feature of their rollout plan. Data in these graphs are based on the Minnesota Department of Health’s cumulative totals released at 11 a.m. daily. You can find more detailed statistics on COVID-19 at the Health Department website.The coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets, coughs and sneezes, similar to the way the flu can spread.You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.Donate today. A gift of $17 makes a difference.