Mass. offers prizes for vaccinated

  • A box of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vials on display during a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, in Longwood, Florida. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS) Joe Burbank

Associated Press
Published: 6/15/2021 9:14:52 PM

Massachusetts is giving away five $1 million cash prizes and five $300,000 college scholarships to residents who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday.

The aim of the so-called VaxMillions Giveaway, modeled after a similar program in Ohio, is to drive up the state’s vaccination rate, already one of the best in the nation, he said.

About 4 million state residents are already fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Public Health.

“So if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines and thinking about getting vaccinated, but for whatever reason haven’t, here’s another reason for you to come forward, protect yourself, your friends, your coworkers, and your neighbors by getting vaccinated here in the Commonweath,” the Republican governor said at a news conference.

All legal state residents who have been vaccinated in the state are eligible to register for the lottery prizes by going to starting July 1.

Residents age 18 and older are eligible for the $1 million prizes, while residents ages 12 to 17 are eligible for the scholarships, which are in the form of grants via a 529 College Savings Plan managed by the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority.

The money is coming from federal coronavirus relief funds.

The state will hold weekly drawings for five weeks starting the week of July 26.

Baker said he discussed the program with Republican Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, which has similar program that been successful in boosting vaccination rates.

DeWine said the lottery accomplished three things, Baker said. It has created more visibility about getting vaccinated generally. It also spurred people previously hesitant to get vaccinated to get a shot.

“They did start to see pickup rates among some of the populations they’d had a really hard time reaching, especially, sort of young people, mostly men, between the ages of about 20 and 40, which is a tough population for us as well as it was for them,” Baker said.

Ohio also saw an uptick in interest from parents who used the offer of a college scholarship to urge their hesitant children to get vaccinated, he said.

“Who wouldn’t want a scholarship for their education?” said state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, whose office oversees the state lottery.

State of emergency lifted

Even though Massachusetts’ state of emergency was lifted Tuesday after 462 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, residents should not notice many obvious changes to life.

Many restrictions put in place during the pandemic have already been eased, including limits on gatherings and mask requirements as more and more people have become vaccinated.

Most businesses that survived the state-of-emergency shutdown have reopened, and schools that pivoted to remote learning are now back with in-person classes.

Some places may still require masks, such as public transportation and health care environments with vulnerable populations.

Gov. Charlie Baker and the legislature are in discussions to extend some state-of-emergency restrictions that proved popular such as allowing restaurants to sell alcohol with takeout orders and expanded outdoor dining.

The end of the state of emergency also means a return to surge pricing for ride hailing companies, and an end to restrictions that have shielded renters from eviction.

COVID-19 notification

Massachusetts on Tuesday launched a free smartphone service residents can use to notify others that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The program called MassNotify provides an additional layer of awareness and safety to prevent coronavirus transmission and outbreaks, the state officials said in a statement.

Use of the technology, developed in conjunction with Apple and Google, is voluntary, works anonymously and does not track users or divulge personal information.

When a person tests positive for COVID-19, they receive a text message with instructions on how to anonymously share their test result. If they do share, MassNotify users who were near the person who tested positive receive an anonymous alert on their phone about their possible exposure.

Similar technology is being used in 28 other states and 35 countries, state officials said.


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