The state of Ohio on Wednesday announced the first winners of its "Vax-a-Million" lottery. The program will award five vaccinated residents $1 million each in an effort to.
"On May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars," DeWine said in a tweet thread announcing the program two weeks ago.
Abbigail Bugenske from Silverton in Hamilton County was announced as the first winner of the $1 million prize.
The drawings are being conducted by the Ohio lottery, DeWine said. All Ohio residents over the age of 18 are eligible, so long as they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The funds for the $5 million gifts and costs of running the drawing will come from existing federal COVID-19 relief funds, according to DeWine. He did not specify what the funds had originally been allocated for.
"I know that some may say, 'DeWine, you're crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.' 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," DeWine tweeted.
DeWine also announced a separate lottery offering scholarships for those who are vaccinated but under the age of 18. This lottery will also pick one winner a week for five weeks beginning May 26.
"The winner will receive a full, four-year scholarship to our State of Ohio universities," DeWine tweeted. "This will include tuition, room and board, and books.
Joseph Costello in Montgomery County was announced as the first winner of the scholarship lottery.
DeWine also announced in mid-May that the Ohio Department of Health on June 2 will lift all COVID-related health orders, "except those for nursing homes and assisted living facilities." This includes all social distancing and mask mandates, although DeWine noted individual businesses and schools can still choose to enforce their own rules.
"In fact, based upon the experiences of other states, we expect that many stores or businesses may require social distancing and masking," DeWine tweeted.
The announcements came amid a push to get as many Ohio residents as possible vaccinated. In a statewide address, DeWine stressed the importance of vaccinations, noting that "those who are not vaccinated remain prey to the virus."
"We hope for a good summer, but we also have to be able to get through the dark days of winter safely. To do that, we need a much higher percentage of Ohioans to be vaccinated," DeWine said. He also noted that between January 1 and April 13, "Nearly 100% of hospitalizations occurred among those not vaccinated."