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Vax & Scratch fever: A free shot at $5M, and other incentives to get vaccinated in NY

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a "Vax & Scratch" program: Get a vaccine next week and get a scratch-off lottery ticket with a chance to win $5 million. Credit: NY Governor's Office

Get your COVID-19 shots, get a shot at $5 million.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, calling the slowing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations "troubling news" Thursday, announced an incentive to get New Yorkers vaccinated next week: a free ticket for the state's Mega Multiplier lottery, where the top prize is $5 million.

At the same time, Suffolk County officials offered their own incentive: free drinks at a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Friday as the sun starts to sink and the waves come crashing in.

Cuomo described the "Vax & Scratch" program at a briefing in Buffalo as he said the number of vaccinations statewide is slowing "dramatically."

"We still have to get people vaccinated," he said.

What to know

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, citing the slowing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, announced an incentive to get the shot next week: a free ticket for the state's Mega Multiplier lottery.

Suffolk County officials offered another incentive: free vaccines at a pop-up site at Smith Point Beach and a free drink at a restaurant there Friday evening.

Cuomo announced another day of encouraging COVID-19 statistics. The statewide positivity rate was .85%, the lowest level since Sept. 11.

The lottery ticket is a $20 value, he said, and he put the chances of winning "something" at 1 in 9. The pilot program for those 18 and older runs from Monday to Friday next week.

The tickets can be obtained at 10 state-run mass vaccination sites, including those at Stony Brook University, the Javits Center in Manhattan, York College in Queens and Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Cuomo said getting the vaccine has "practical benefits" beyond the lottery ticket, such as giving people more freedom to attend certain events and activities, from restaurants to professional baseball games.

"If you get the vaccine, then this goes away," he said, picking up a face mask and referring to new regulations that allow vaccinated people to go mask-free in many situations.

Other states have come up with similar incentives. Ohio's governor Mike DeWine announced this month that adults who get vaccinated will receive a ticket to win one of the state's five $1 million lottery drawings.

Moreover, Ohio residents ages 12 to 17 who get a shot can enter to win four-year, full-ride scholarships to state colleges or universities or possibly private institutions.

West Virginia has been offering $100 saving bonds, New Jersey was doling out free beers, and New York City was dangling free MetroCards for people who get their shots.

On Long Island, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Thursday that officials will offer free vaccines at a pop-up site at Smith Point County Park on Friday evening, and a free drink at a beachfront restaurant there.

Health officials will administer the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to walk-in patients from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Anyone age 21 and older who gets vaccinated at the site will get a free drink ticket for Tiki Joe’s Beach Club, the Smith Point restaurant set to open Friday night.

"Summer is almost here, and we all want to be able to enjoy our favorite warm weather activities safely," Bellone said in a statement. Friday’s event at Tiki Joe’s "is the county’s latest effort to make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible, with the added incentive of a free drink to enjoy on the beach."

The planned pop-up comes as the county is offering free drink tickets for local breweries and wineries to anyone of drinking age who gets vaccinated at a Suffolk vaccination site this month.

The Smith Point pop-up vaccination site will be operated by Suffolk County and Northwell Health.

Cuomo also announced another day of COVID-19 statistics that he called "really, really promising."

Hospitalizations statewide were 1,490 on Wednesday, the lowest level since Nov. 8. The overall statewide positivity rate was .85%, the lowest level since Sept. 11.

That "really is a phenomenal piece of good news," the governor said.

The seven-day average for positive results was 0.89% on Long Island and 0.81% in New York City. The figure was 1.02% statewide.

The number of new confirmed cases was 91 in Nassau County, 85 in Suffolk County and 570 in New York City.

Statewide, 18 people died Wednesday of causes linked to the virus, state data showed. Three of the fatalities were in Nassau and one was in Suffolk.

The deaths were a "true reminder that this is not over," Cuomo said. "We still have to be careful."

More than 18 million vaccine doses have been administered in New York, he said. About 62.7% of New Yorkers 18 and older have received at least one shot, and 53.5% of New Yorkers 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

Cuomo also announced seven new pop-up vaccination sites that will operate next week at airports throughout the state, including LaGuardia and Kennedy.

The sites will be open for walk-in vaccinations on a first-come, first-served basis and will use the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

With Rachelle Blidner

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