OLYMPIA — Washington state is set to end pandemic restrictions that have been in place for more than a year at the end of the month. But officials hope that a new statewide incentive program announced last week will help bring an end to restrictions sooner than that.
At a June 3 news conference, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled the state’s vaccination incentive program. Over the next five weeks, $2 million in cash prizes will be given away via a lottery to those who have received at least one covid-19 vaccine dose, as well as a variety of other prizes that includes gift cards, free tuition, tickets to professional sporting events, video game consoles, smart home devices and even hunting and fishing licenses.
Most pandemic restrictions are set to end on June 30, but they could be lifted sooner if 70% of all Washingtonians age 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose. As of June 5, 63.7% of people in that group have received one or more doses.
Washington’s incentive program follows in the footsteps of more than a dozen other states that have launched their own programs, with the hope that they will convince holdouts to roll up their sleeves as well as reward residents who have already done their part to try and bring an end to a pandemic that has hospitalized more than 2.5 million Americans, killed nearly 600,000 and leaves millions still unemployed.
In Ohio, the first state to announce vaccine incentives, five vaccinated adults will win $1 million each and five 12 to 17-year-olds will each win a four-year scholarship to a public college or university in the state. In Maryland, all vaccinated adults are eligible in a daily drawing for a $40,000 cash prize from May 24 to July 4. In Oregon, vaccinated adults have the chance to win the $1 million grand prize or one of 36 $10,000 prizes being given away, as well as five $100,000 scholarships being awarded to vaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds.
‘Shot of a Lifetime’The Washington State Lottery is conducting a total of five drawings for the largest of the cash-prize giveaways, beginning this week. For the first four weeks, a weekly drawing will be held for a $250,000 cash prize. A $1 million grand prize will be awarded on the fifth and final drawing, to be held July 13.
The drawings are being dubbed the “Shot of a Lifetime” by the state. Every eligible adult and youth Washingtonian who has received at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine in the state is eligible for the drawing, meaning the only thing you need to do to enter the drawing is get vaccinated.
The state Lottery will automatically retrieve names from the state Department of Health’s immunization database, so it doesn’t matter if a person was vaccinated in December, April or just days before the drawing.
Every eligible resident will be assigned a number by the health department, and numbers will be drawn by the state Lottery using a random number generating system, which will then be shared with the health department to match with the name of the individual.
Most people age 18 and older who have been vaccinated in the state will be eligible for the prizes. Employees and their family members who work at the Office of the Governor or the state Lottery or Department of Health are ineligible for any of the drawings. Also ineligible are people who are incarcerated in a federal, state, city or county correctional facility.
Currently, anyone who has been vaccinated out of state or by a federal vaccine provider, such as the Veteran’s Administration or the Department of Defense, also isn’t eligible for the drawings, because those records are not in the state’s immunization database. Officials said the state is working with federal agencies about creating a secure system to share vaccination records.
Hundreds of other prizesThe cash giveaways aren’t the only prizes up for grabs as part of the drawings.
Nearly $1 million is set aside for higher education incentives, such as tuition and book assistance. Thirty prizes of one year of tuition college credits are being offered for 12 to 17-year-olds through the Guaranteed Education Tuition program. The credits will go directly to families.
The Washington State Department of Commerce is partnering with the Association of Washington Business and local chambers of commerce to purchase $1 million worth of gift cards to local businesses, to be given away at vaccine locations. The state Department of Health will also disburse $500,000 in gift cards over the summer as part of their Care-a-Van mobile vaccination effort. The gift cards are for a variety of retail offerings, such as groceries and recreational gear.
Various ticket prizes are up for grabs that are being offered by Washington companies and sports teams. The Mariners, Sounders, Seahawks, Storm, Kraken and OL Reign are offering tickets to upcoming home games, and Alaska Airlines is offering free tickets to anywhere the airline flies.
Tech companies are also getting in on the giveaways. Microsoft is contributing 300 Xbox consoles and Game Passes to the drawings, Nintendo is offering up Nintendo Switches, Google is giving away 25 Google Nests, and Amazon is ponying up 40 Echo Dots.
Additionally, Washington State Parks is giving away 80 “one week of free camping” gift cards, worth $250 each. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is giving away 80 $100 gift certificates for fishing and hunting licenses. And 400 Discover Passes will also be given away, which allow access to recreation on state public lands, including Cape Disappointment, Leadbetter Point and Fort Columbia state parks.
“Good luck in the lottery, this is the most important one you’ll ever be in,” Inslee said.
Local vaccination rate stays steadySlowly but surely, the vaccination rate in Pacific County has continued to rise after the initial rush for vaccines slowed down earlier this spring.
As of June 5, 46.7% of all county residents have received at least one vaccine dose, up from 41.7% a month ago. And 41% of all residents are fully vaccinated, up from 33.9% over the previous month. Among the county’s senior population, 68% of residents age 65 and older are fully vaccinated.
Through the end of May, Pacific County ranked 13th out of the state’s 39 counties in terms of how many residents have received at least one vaccine dose — 45.9%, at the time. Among the state’s 17 counties with a population of fewer than 50,000 people, the county ranks third, trailing just San Juan (70.4%) and Jefferson (64.3%) counties, and ahead of Wahkiakum County (43%).
As the vaccination rate in the county inches up day by day, new covid-19 cases in the county continue to drop off. As of June 7, there have been 22 new cases in Pacific County over the last 14 days, with eight cases currently active. The case rate per 100,000 people over the past 14 days is 102, down by nearly half from 190 on May 24.
A bundle of vaccine clinics continue to be available each week in both ends of the county, with many scheduled on Mondays and Tuesdays. For a list of all upcoming vaccine clinics in Pacific County, visit tinyurl.com/paccoclinics.