Retired cardiologist Warren Alpern administers the J&J vaccine at a clinic outside Becky’s Diner in Portland this month. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

One lucky Maine resident who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 could win close to $1 million in a new sweepstakes campaign the state announced Wednesday as an incentive to encourage more people to get their shots against COVID-19.

The “Don’t Miss Your Shot: Vacationland Sweepstakes” will reward one vaccinated winner with $1 for every person vaccinated in the state by July 4. If the drawing were held today the prize would be $876,655.

“Maine is a national leader in COVID-19 vaccination thanks to the more than 876,000 people who have already rolled up their sleeves,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “Our goal with the Don’t Miss Your Shot: Vacationland Sweepstakes is to encourage even more people to get the vaccine and declare their independence from COVID-19 as we approach the Fourth of July.”

The announcement comes as states around the country have been offering all kinds of incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated as demand has waned. California announced Monday it would be offering six “dream vacations” including hotels, entertainment and food for vaccinated residents over 18, while Massachusetts is offering five $1 million prizes for vaccinated adults and five college scholarships for residents 12 to 17 years old.

Maine is seeing improvements in terms of case numbers and hospitalizations, and the state also is a leader in vaccination rates. On Wednesday, Maine reported 51 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total over the course of the pandemic to 68,683.

The state also reported five additional deaths, bringing the total number of people who have died to 853. The seven-day average of daily new cases declined to 43, the lowest level since late October. The average stood at 73.1 a week ago and 253 a month ago.

Close to 64 percent of eligible people 12 and over in Maine are fully vaccinated, according to the Maine CDC. The U.S. CDC estimates that 74 percent of Mainers 12 and over have received a first dose. However, the federal number includes individuals not reflected in the Maine CDC statistics, such as those vaccinated through veterans and defense department programs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, according to Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long.

Officials said Wednesday that they’re hoping the new incentive will encourage even more people to get their vaccines, especially in rural counties whose vaccination rates have tended to lag their more populated counterparts.

In rural Somerset County, for example, close to 50 percent of eligible adults are vaccinated. In Cumberland County, the state’s most populous county, nearly 77 percent have received their final shots.

“We’re hoping we can use programs of this nature to spur demand,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a media briefing. “It’s as simple as that. We’re not constrained by the supply of vaccine any longer. There’s vaccine out there. If this is what it takes to nudge folks to get them to come in, all the better.”

Residents 12 and older who have received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Maine since Dec. 15, 2020, may enter for a chance to win. Registration is required and the deadline to get vaccinated and submit an entry is 11:59 p.m. on June 30. Maine residents who received the Johnson & Johnson shot in another state or both doses of the other two shots in another state are not eligible.

Entries are being accepted online at www.maine.gov/covid19/vaccines or by calling the Community Vaccination Line at 888-445-4111. The governor will announce the winner and the prize amount on the afternoon of July 4.

The new incentive program and continuing decline in case numbers come as Maine has been lifting many COVID-related rules and restrictions, though officials cautioned Wednesday that the pandemic isn’t over. “There are still people getting sick,” Mills said. “The virus is still among us and so are variants appearing in other states and countries that we’re concerned about. Nobody is declaring the pandemic over. The state of emergency is a little different, and that’s what we’re hoping to end in the next two weeks.”

Of the five additional deaths reported Wednesday, three are recent and two occurred at the end of May but are being reported now as the result of a state review of vital records and death certificates. Two of the people who died were residents of Aroostook County, two were from Cumberland County and one was from York County. Three were women and two were men. One was in their 40s, one in their 50s, one in their 70s and two in their 80s.

Hospitalizations have continued to trend downward. On Wednesday there were 32 people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, including 17 in critical care and seven on ventilators. Two weeks ago there were 87 people hospitalized, including 29 in critical care and 18 on ventilators.

In general, Shah said that since March deaths have trended younger and often people who have died have had underlying conditions, though that has been a constant throughout the pandemic. The same is true of hospitalizations, with the average age of people who are being hospitalized now in their mid-40s. In Maine and nationwide, about 80 to 90 percent of people who are being hospitalized are unvaccinated, Shah said.

Maine’s vaccination strategy in recent weeks has shifted away from large mass vaccination sites in an effort to bring the vaccine to younger people and those who may have not gotten the shot earlier due to a lack of convenience, vaccine hesitancy or other reasons.

The mobile vaccination unit – a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state – will be in Old Orchard Beach through Friday. The site at 77 Milliken St. will be offering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Old Orchard Beach location is part of an effort to bring the vaccine closer to where younger people work and congregate, which included recent clinics at Rising Tide Brewing and Becky’s Diner in Portland. The Portland House of Music also will be hosting vaccine clinics on July 7 and July 12 from 8-11 p.m.

The Rising Tide clinic vaccinated 131 people over four days last week, a FEMA spokesman said Wednesday, and the mobile vaccination unit is closing in on having administered 10,000 vaccines statewide.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 also are continuing to decline. In the last seven days, the United States has reported an average of 13,721 cases per day, or four cases per 100,000 people, according to the New York Times. Maine is continuing to lead in vaccination rates with only Vermont and Massachusetts reporting higher percentages of fully vaccinated adults.


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