SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California selected another 15 people on Friday to win $50,000 each just for getting the coronavirus vaccine amid hopes from state officials that the chance of winning big money will convince skeptics to get inoculated ahead of the state's broad reopening next week.
The lottery-style drawing selected winners from the nearly 22 million Californians who have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. State officials identified the winners by what county they lived in, with plans to contact them in the coming days.
Fifteen other people won the prize last week. But state officials could not reach two of them. The two were replaced by alternate winners in Sacramento and Monterey counties, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
In addition to the $50,000 prizes, the state has pledged to give $50 gift cards to 2 million people who get vaccinated.
But the big prize will be handed out on Tuesday, when Newsom will oversee a drawing where 10 people will win $1.5 million each. Newsom has said that on that same day he will lift the state's stay-at-home order and end most restrictions on businesses — including allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks under most circumstances.
One of last week's $50,000 winners was 17-year-old Nancy Gutierrez, who is about to finish her junior year of high school in the San Diego area. Newsom indicated the money would go into a savings account because Gutierrez is under 18.
“My only advice: Don't spend all that money. Invest it in your future and in your mind,” Newsom told her during a news conference in Vista, California, that was streamed on the governor's social media channels.
Gutierrez appeared with Newsom at the news conference, smiling while holding a microphone and answering questions from the governor as he acted like a game-show host for the second week in a row. Gutierrez said she and her family initially did not believe the news that she had won and encouraged everyone to get vaccinated.
“I think most of us want life to go like back to normal and getting the vaccine would definitely help that,” she said.
Newsom said California has administered nearly 40 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine and that 70% of the state's adult residents have received at least one dose.
Newsom said it would be “challenging” to for the state to achieve a rate of 75% to 80% of California residents vaccinated with one dose, but that he believes the prize money has been an effective incentive.
Newsom said the state administered 1.43 million does over the past week, an increase from the fewer than 1 million doses that were given out the week before.
“Just a handful of states can lay claim to seeing week over week increases in vaccination doses being administered,” he said. “We're here to celebrate that.”
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat contributed from Vista, California.