Is Ohio’s million-dollar sweepstakes ‘crazy?’ Gov. DeWine responds to critics

“People will say, ‘Hey, Mike DeWine is crazy. This is a waste.’ But the real waste is when someone dies of COVID at this point of the pandemic.”
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 7:50 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Five vaccinated Ohioans are about to get rich, thanks to a million-dollar sweepstakes that’s unlike anything else in the country right now.

Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement on Wednesday during a statewide address in which he also said Ohio’s health orders will end June 2.

All registered voters will automatically be included. Five Ohioans will be randomly selected to receive $1 million over five weeks beginning May 26. They must be at least 18 and vaccinated with at least one dose to win.

ALSO | Ohio ending extra unemployment benefits program in June, DeWine says

DeWine sat down with FOX19 NOW on Thursday to answer all our questions.

The goal is to speed up Ohio’s anemic vaccination rollout. Daily vaccinations topped out around 100,000 per day in late March, but since then they’ve slowed to a small fraction of that. Ohio has not vaccinated even 20,000 people in a day since April 30.

Currently 4,915,037 Ohioans have gotten at least one vaccine dose. That’s 42 percent of the total state population. Low estimates from experts have placed herd immunity against COVID-19 at around 70 percent of the total population.

Ohio may be nearing that with vaccinations plus infection-generated immunity, and falling case numbers bear that out. But we want to get there faster, and actually, we want to go past that so reopening efforts don’t lead to isolated outbreaks.

“We know that we’ve got a significant number of people who’ve already been vaccinated,” DeWine said. “We know there’s a number of people who don’t want to be vaccinated at all, and we respect that. But then there’s the people who are in the middle. And these are the people who, you know, this may get them to get it now, as opposed to getting it in two months.”

It’s an idea fitting of Willy Wonka to be sure, but in fact it came from the noggin of DeWine himself.

“I’ve been racking my brain every day to figure out what we can do to get more people vaccinated,” he said. “It is really important to the future of Ohio, [...] how we come out of this, and getting more people vaccinated, it’s gonna save lives. It’s going to keep the virus down. So I kept thinking and thinking and thought, hey, what about the idea of, you know, having a drawing, and people who have had their vaccination are eligible, and maybe that will kind of help push people over the line.”

“I think if it was, you know, any of those, you and I might not be talking right now,” DeWine said. “You know, it’s a million dollars. And I think that that gets people’s attention.”

The money ($5 million in total) will come from unused federal coronavirus relief funds. So yes, the money is taxpayer money, but it’s specifically earmarked for beating back the virus, and the vaccines, according to DeWine, are the best way to do that.

“I understand people will say, ‘Hey, Mike DeWine is crazy. This is a waste.’” he said. “But the real waste is when someone dies of COVID at this point of the pandemic when we actually have the vaccine that could have saved their life. That is a horrible, horrible, horrible waste.”

The governor said getting more people vaccinated is in everyone’s best interest.

“Whether you run a small business, whether you’re a school teacher, having more people vaccinated makes for a safer Ohio this fall and into this winter,” he said. “This virus is still very much out there, and the only way we knock it down is, frankly, to pull more and more people out of the pool who can actually pass it on. Forty-two percent of us now can’t pass it on, and we’ve got to get those numbers up.

Once selected, officials will reach out to ask permission to call the resident’s medical provider to confirm the vaccination. Officials will also ask to see the vaccination card as proof.

If the drawing’s winner is not vaccinated, officials will move on to the second name and, if needed, the third. Officials are confident they won’t need to go much farther than that based on the percentage of Ohio’s adult population that is vaccinated.


Further details and contest rules will be announced by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery Commission next week during a briefing to news media.

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