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Vaccinated yet? You could win one of four $1 million cash prizes through the state’s vaccination lottery.
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Vaccinated yet? You could win one of four $1 million cash prizes through the state’s vaccination lottery.

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The Cooper administration unveiled Thursday a plan to encourage vaccinations through a lottery featuring four $1 million cash prizes and a provision allowing two entries for each newly vaccinated person.

The US state of Ohio has named the first winner of its 'Vax-a-Million' lottery.

Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper said he will provide Friday a status update on his COVID-19 statewide pandemic emergency order.

He declined to share details beyond that he plans to issue an executive order; he wanted the spotlight to be on the vaccination lottery.

North Carolinians ages 18 and over who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine are entered into the four $1 million Summer Cash drawings.

Those between ages 12 and 17 who have received at least one dose are entered into four $125,000 drawings toward post-secondary education that would be placed into an NC 529 account.

The drawings start June 23 and occur every other week through Aug. 4. New entries will close at midnight on the Sunday prior to each Wednesday drawing.

“This is your shot at a million,” Cooper said. “A chance at a million dollars is pretty good motivation.

“But even if your name isn’t drawn, the worst you’ll do is get strong protection from a deadly virus.”

The odds of winning are dependent upon the total number of eligible entries at the time of each drawing. For more information, go to https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/summervaxcash.

There are three things to know for entrants:

* Those who win the cash prizes will have to agree to be identified;

* Federal and state taxes will be taken out of the winnings; and

* The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services may not be able to access data from individuals who received their vaccinations at locations operated by the Department of Defense, Veterans’ Administration, Indian Health Service or other organizations.

Cooper’s Executive Order No. 219, which has the approval of the 10-member Council of State, authorizes the drawings. Federal COVID-19 relief funds are being used for the payments.

State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic, voted against the incentive campaign. He told the News & Observer of Raleigh he has been displeased overall with how state health officials have handled vaccine distribution.

Ohio residents who were recently vaccinated may want to answer their phone on Vax-A-Million days, even if the number isn't familiar. It might be Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the other end.

Getting here

Cooper and Cohen said they were encouraged to roll out the vaccination lottery after seeing the response to a pilot $25 gift-card promotion.

The gift cards were available to unvaccinated individuals ages 18 and older in Guilford, Rockingham, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties who got at least one dose. Also eligible for the gift cards have been drivers who took those unvaccinated people to their first shot.

Cohen said Wednesday that nearly 1,000 cards were distributed to unvaccinated individuals, along with at least 375 to drivers.

Still, vaccinations have dropped sharply in North Carolina from their weekly peak of more than 400,000 during the week that ended on March 8.

By comparison, there were fewer than 69,000 North Carolinians who got their first dose last week.

The Associated Press reported North Carolina ranks as the 14th worst state in COVD-19 vaccine doses administered per capita, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cooper emphasized the state’s COVID-19 metrics remain on a downward trend overall in daily cases and hospitalizations, related deaths, and positive test rate, which was listed at 1.8% in DHHS’ report Thursday.

“But everyday we still have people going into the hospital, the ICU, and most every day people are still dying from COVID, so we know it’s still here,” Cooper said.

“We need to pull out all stops, do everything we can.”

State of emergency

Cooper’s latest emergency executive order is set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday.

Cooper said in regard to his statewide emergency order that it remains necessary because “it allows us to draw federal funds ... to be able to get the vaccines to people faster.”

“It’s an important part of getting this pandemic behind us.”

South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Henry McMaster ended its state of emergency Monday. Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has said he has no plans to extend his state of emergency order beyond June 30.

Cooper also said during Thursday’s news conference that while he doesn’t expect the Republican state budget proposal to include any form of Medicaid expansion, he is confident there will continue to be conservations on the topic.

“That issue is still on the table,” Cooper said.

“There are opportunities in other legislation to expand Medicaid, and most people across the state are for this ... because it is going to save lives and it is the right and smart thing to do.”

Other lotteries

Cooper and Cohen said they also were encouraged to proceed with the vaccination lottery by the successful rollout of a similar initiative in Ohio.

There are similar efforts in Maryland, New York and West Virginia.

“We’re seeing in other states the things that have motivated people to say ‘OK, I was going to (get vaccinated) anyway, but now I can win $1 million,” Cooper said.

“We want to go with what works.”

The lottery initiatives in the left- and right-leaning states also are using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Ohio launched its Vax-a-Million effort on May 13 with $1 million lottery drawings for five people each week through June 23, along with a full scholarship to an in-state college or university for those ages 12 to 17.

The Ohio governor’s office reported a 28% increase in vaccinations among those 16 and older in the first two weeks following the launch.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’ ” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement.

“But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to Covid-19.”

West Virginia’s lottery begins June 20 and runs through Aug. 3.

It will feature a $1.59 million grand prize, a $588,000 second prize, full scholarships to any higher education institution in West Virginia, custom-outfitted trucks, weekend vacations at state parks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and custom hunting shotguns.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the push to get more West Virginians vaccinated “is crucial in not only saving lives, but saving the state from the financial impact of continued hospitalizations and prolonged vaccine clinics.”

“The faster we get people across the finish line, the more lives we save. That’s all there is to it,” Justice said.

The Maryland Lottery is offer a $40,000 prize every day through July 3 to a randomly selected vaccinated resident. On July 4, the state will offer a jackpot of $400,000.

New York is offering overall $5 million in prizes that start at $20.

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@rcraverWSJ

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