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Cuomo: Vaccinated Nassau girl wins raffle for college scholarship

Amaya Thalappillil.

Amaya Thalappillil. Credit: Tiffany Thalappillil

A Nassau County girl is among the 10 raffle winners of a full scholarship for young people who received a COVID-19 vaccination to any SUNY or CUNY college.

Amaya Thalappillil's name was announced Wednesday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the last drawing of the five-week raffle.

"I am shocked and honored to have been given this opportunity," Thalappillil, 14, said. "This scholarship is life-changing, and I am beyond grateful."

An incoming freshman at Great Neck South High School, she is interested in studying fashion in Manhattan and may want to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, said her mother, Tiffany Thalappillil.

Cuomo said in a statement that "getting vaccinated is the key to our success defeating COVID-19 and restoring the economy, and this extraordinary incentive for the state's young people has helped us put shots in arms across New York."

The governor has announced 10 winners in each of the past five weeks. They will receive full room, board and tuition payments at any state or city-run college where they are accepted.

The raffle and other incentive programs are helpful in getting more people vaccinated even though they may be hesitant, said Martine Hackett, an associate professor of public health at Hofstra University.

"The incentives can be helpful for people who are considering it, but sort of needed an extra push," Hackett said.

She added that "there are many assets the state has access to that might be attractive to people," though officials must be careful because "if the incentive is too good, it might be considered coercive."

For all the good the incentives have done, though, they are not the ultimate answer, she said.

"I think that you can’t count on the incentives really moving the needle too much," Hackett said. "I think it’s really going to be ground combat at this point to get additional people vaccinated."

While New York State has pushed down the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and positivity levels in testing, Cuomo said more people need to get vaccinated to completely wipe out the virus.

And at the same time, new, dangerous and highly contagious variants, including the delta, are emerging and spreading, according to infectious disease experts.

Despite that threat, COVID-19 indicators in New York State remained at low levels in the latest testing.

The seven-day average for positivity in test results was 0.40% statewide, 0.36% on Long Island and 0.43% in New York City.

There were 17 new confirmed cases in Nassau, 13 in Suffolk, and 214 in New York City.

Across the state, five people died on Tuesday of causes related to the virus. None of the fatalities were on Long Island.

Cuomo said that 72% of New Yorkers aged 18 or older have received at least one vaccine shot, according to CDC figures.

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