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Power shot? Pritzker injects COVID-19 vaccine lottery talk into mix as daily inoculation rate plummets

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already offered up free Six Flags tickets and shooting clays to try to get more shots into arms, On Wednesday, he signed a law that allows bars to dole out a free drink as an incentive.  Now he said state lawmakers “paved the way” for a potential lottery when they approved his $42 billion budget this week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker smiles at a May 10 Chicago news conference. The state could soon announced a lottery program as an incentive for people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, Pritzker said Wednesday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker smiles at a May 10 Chicago news conference. The state could soon announced a lottery program as an incentive for people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, Pritzker said Wednesday.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

COVID-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chance of contracting a severe case of the respiratory disease, and they could soon boost the chance — a tiny bit, at least — of a massive cash windfall for Illinois residents.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday hinted the state could soon launch a vaccine lottery program as an incentive to get more people to roll up their sleeves.

Ohio was the first state to dangle the prospect of a $1 million lottery jackpot as a way to attract more residents who had been on the fence about getting vaccinated. First-time shot totals jumped 40% in the week after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that campaign, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Other states followed suit, with some upping the ante. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered lottery scratch-off tickets at selected vaccination sites giving a chance at a grand prize of $5 million.

A little more than half of Illinois adults are fully immunized, and two-thirds have gotten at least one dose, but the state has averaged only 41,234 shots administered per day over the past week — the lowest daily vax rate seen since the end of January, when supply was desperately scarce.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

Pritzker’s office has already offered up free Six Flags tickets and shooting clays to try to get more shots into arms, and he signed a law Tuesday allowing bars to dole out a free drink to people with proof of vaccination.

“There are a lot of different incentives out there and I hope people take advantage of them,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference in Peoria. “We’re looking forward to potentially doing a vaccine lottery, as you’ve heard about in other states.”

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine discusses the most recent data on Ohio’s coronavirus cases during a news briefing in November.
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine discusses the most recent data on Ohio’s coronavirus cases during a news briefing in November.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins/AP file

The governor commended state lawmakers who “paved the way” for the potential lottery in approving his $42 billion budget last weekend.

Up to $7 million in prizes will be awarded to adults through the program, which is being developed by the Illinois Lottery and the state Department of Public Health, according to the law that implements the budget. The state might also offer up to $3 million in “scholarships or educational awards” for people younger than 18.

Pritzker said the specifics of the prizes would be announced “very soon” by his office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.

More than 11.3 million shots have been administered in Illinois since December, including 29,322 on Tuesday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

COVID-19 infections are at the lowest levels seen since the onset of the pandemic. Officials reported 478 new cases were diagnosed among 35,697 tests, sending the average statewide positivity rate down to yet another all-time low of 1.5%. That record has been broken and reset six times in the last week.

Hospitals are treating the fewest coronavirus patients they’ve seen since the first weeks of the pandemic, with 1,013 beds occupied Tuesday night.

And while the virus claimed nine more lives, the average daily fatality rate is down 14% compared to a month ago.

Illinois has seen about 1.4 million people test positive over the past 15 months, with a death toll of 22,842.

For help finding a vaccine appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835. The city is offering in-home vaccinations to any resident 65 or older, as well as those with disabilities or underlying health conditions.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.