Winners in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties were among the 15 California residents selected during the drawing for the second round of $50,000 cash prizes in the state’s “Vax for the Win” COVID-19 vaccine incentive program.
As was the case last week, Friday morning’s draw was held during a news conference featuring a game show-like setup with the winners picked from a lottery ball machine in Sacramento. The mascot for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings joined the festivities this time around.
And Gov. Gavin Newsom, who drew the numbers last week, spoke from a different location in San Diego County.
Those who were chosen for the second batch of $50,000 prizes included three people from Los Angeles County, and one resident apiece in Orange and Riverside counties. Last week, three people from L.A. County and one from Orange County were among the group of 15.
Newsom noted that the state was only able to track down 13 of the winners from last week, and two backups were selected to receive the prize.
Next Tuesday, when California anticipates lifting the bulk of its coronavirus health and safety measures, the state will hold its grand prize drawing. On that day, 10 vaccinated Californians will each be awarded $1.5 million.
More than 21 million residents ages 12 and up in the state have received at least one dose of the coronavirus shot and are eligible to win the cash prizes from the vaccine lottery.
Winners are being identified during the draw only by anonymous numbers and their county of residence in an effort to protect their privacy.
Once contacted by the state, they have the option to come forward publicly. Among the winners of last week’s drawing was 17-year-old Nancy Gutierrez of Vista, who appeared on stage alongside Newsom at the news conference.
The high school junior said she and her family were at first in a state of disbelief after being contacted by the state.
“We didn’t believe it at the beginning, but I think after a few more phone calls, we were like, ‘OK, I think this might be true,’” Gutierrez recalled.
She had made appointments for herself and both of her parents to be vaccinated last month.
“When I found out that the vaccines were available, I was — I think I was really excited, because it means that I get to have more liberty with going outside,” Gutierrez said.
The California Department of Public Health will notify winners by telephone, text, email or other information that is in their record in the state’s vaccine registry. If the person can’t be reached for 96 hours after the first attempt however, someone else will get the prize instead.
On top of the lottery, California is giving out $50 gift cards to the first 2 million residents who got vaccinated beginning on May 27.
The $116.5 million in total prizes — which officials touted as the largest state vaccine incentive program in the nation — is part of an effort to boost vaccination rates ahead of June 15, when California expects to fully reopen its economy after a year-plus of pandemic-related restrictions.
“This program seems to have been effective in encouraging more people to get vaccinated,” Newsom said, noting that in the past seven days, 1.43 million shots have been administered. That figure is higher than the week prior, when the state was just shy of 1 million doses being administered over a seven-day period.
To further the push, Newsom also announced another series of vaccine incentives, including sweepstakes for free tickets to L.A. Clippers, Rams or Chargers games, as well as offers for free items from Taco Bell and Chipotle.
As of Friday, the state has administered more than 40 million COVID-19 shots, with more than 70% of adults having received at least one jab, according to the governor.
The nation’s most populous state, which was once the epicenter of the public health emergency in the U.S., is also now experiencing the lowest coronavirus rates in the country — something that is “significant when you consider the size and scale of our state,” Newsom said.
And in another milestone, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped below 1,000 for the first time in over a year.
On Friday afternoon, the governor signed two executive orders to begin moving California away from the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” plan that has been guiding the state’s reopenings for nearly the past 10 months of the pandemic.
“That blueprint will no longer exist next Tuesday, pursuant to these two executive orders, one winding things down, another lifting and rescinding that blueprint,” Newsom said.