COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio residents who were recently vaccinated may want to answer their phone Wednesday even if the number isn't familiar. It might be Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on the other end.
The Ohio Lottery planned to announce the next winners of the state's Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prizes at 7:29 p.m. Wednesday at the end of the lottery's Cash Explosion TV show.
Wednesday is also the day that the last statewide orders meant to slow the spread of the coroanvirus expire, including—for unvaccinated individuals—the statewide mask order and social distancing requirements—and limits on restaurant table seating. DeWine continues to urge people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to wear masks if not vaccinated.
The only virus-related restrictions that will remain in place after Wednesday are those involving nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But businesses and schools will still be able to require masks and social distancing, if they choose to do so.
Abbigail Bugenske, last week's winner of $1 million learned of her good fortune just minutes before her name was drawn when DeWine called as she was driving to her parents' home in suburban Cleveland.
The mom of Joseph Costello, the college scholarship winner, was leaving work when the governor called and had to sit down, she was so shocked.
More than 3.2 million Ohioans entered their names for a shot at the $1 million, up from the 2.8 million who had registered for last week's drawing. More than 133,000 children entered their names for the scholarship, up from just over 104,000 last week.
The names were actually drawn Monday using a random number generator, to leave time to confirm recipients' eligibility. Vax-a-Million is open to permanent Ohio residents who have received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccination.
After Wednesday night, three more $1 million and college scholarship winners will be announced each Wednesday for the next three weeks.
DeWine, a Republican, announced the program May 12 to boost lagging vaccination rates.
Participants must register to enter by phone or via the Vax-a-Million website. Teens can register themselves, but parents or legal guardians must verify their eligibility. The names of entrants who don't win will be carried over week to week. The deadline for new registrations is just before midnight on Sunday.
More than 5.3 million people in Ohio had at least started the vaccination process as of this week, or about 45% of the state. About 4.7 million people are done getting vaccinated, or about 40% of the state. Nationally, more than 168 million Americans have started the vaccination process, or about 51% of the population. More than 135 million are fully vaccinated, or about 41%.
DeWine's proposal inspired similar vaccine-incentive lotteries in Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico,New York state and Oregon.
Vaccinated residents in New Mexico who register on the state's new "Vax 2 the Max" portal can win from a $10 million prize pool including a $5 million grand prize, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday.