Success of big lottery impact is a long shot

When Gov. Mike DeWine said he was lifting virtually all health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, he also announced five weekly drawings, starting next week, with a prize of $1 million each to those who have at least started the vaccination process.

“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy. This $1 million drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he said.

DeWine, a Republican, continued: “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic, when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it, is a life lost to COVID-19.”

Based on the number of people who have signed up to get one of the five $1 million prizes,the drawings are popular. If you’ve been inoculated, of course you’re going to sign up.

Will it get enough people hesitant to get vaccinated to take the shot?

That depends on what is considered “enough.”

There are numerous opportunities to get vaccinated. Because so few people have been interested lately, an Ohioan can walk into several clinics without appointments and get a shot.

Are there that many people who will change their mind for the chance to win $1 million? DeWine believes so.

The state is seeing an uptick in the number of people getting inoculated since the announcement.

About 113,000 shots were given between May 13 and last Tuesday compared to 74,000 during the previous week, May 6 to 11, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Also, there’s been a 28 percent increase in vaccinations for those at least 16 years old between May 14 and last Monday compared to May 7 to 10. These are very small samples.

While an increase is great, it is tiny compared to the number of vaccinations given in March to early April. There were 107,718 vaccinations started March 31 and 101,407 April 1. Those are just single days.

Money for the vaccine lottery will come from unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds, DeWine said.

That raises questions about the state’s inability to spend that money for virus-related efforts.

Asked about use of COVID-19 relief funds for the drawings, Stephanie McCloud, ODH director, said: “We’re seeing an increase in vaccinations. I don’t know if we could have spent the money to generate this much interest.”

She called the increases “dramatic.”

The odds are the five winners will be people who were vaccinated before DeWine announced the Vax-a-Million gimmick. More than 95 percent of inoculated Ohioans got their shots before DeWine said anything about the drawings.

The state attorney general and auditor don’t support the use of the money for the drawings, but both said initial reviews appear to show it doesn’t violate state law or federal guidelines.

DeWine has faced constant battles from members of his own party to reopen the state.

He first said March 4 he would lift all COVID-19 pandemic health orders if the state got to as few as 50 cases per 100,000 for two weeks.

But facing a June 23 deadline and policy changes announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DeWine already relaxed the face mask mandate for those vaccinated and will eliminate all COVID-19 restrictions, except those for nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, on June 2.

Businesses still may require masks, but more and more already have abandoned that restriction.

The June 23 deadline is a reference to a March 24 override of DeWine’s veto by the state Legislature, controlled by his fellow Republicans, that will give them the authority on that date to end public health orders. The Legislature override takes effect 90 days later so it wouldn’t have been a shock to see it eliminated as soon as that day.

Also, DeWine is facing re-election next year. His popularity among members of his party has declined during the pandemic. The governor is likely better liked by Democrats than Republicans.

DeWine is going to face opponents in the Republican primary and needs to do something to help win re-election.

DeWine has said a number of times that his reaction to the pandemic hasn’t been political. But let’s be realistic: it has been and will continue to be.

Skolnick covers politics for the Warren Tribune Chronicle and The Youngstown Vindicator, sisters newspapers of the Columbiana County publications of Ogden Newspapers.


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