West Virginia is giving away guns to incentivize more people to get the COVID vaccine.
Five hunting rifles and five custom shotguns are among the numerous prizes that the state is rolling out as part of its drive to get more jabs into its residents’ arms. The guns will be given away in multiple lucky draws, the first of which will be held on Father’s Day on June 20.
The initiative was announced by Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday, who said that residents need only get their first COVID vaccine to enter the draw. Those who have already received their vaccines are also eligible.
“You could win something that would be phenomenal,” Justice said.
A compilation of public health data from the Centers for Disease Control’s WONDER database noted that West Virginia has the eighth-highest rate of gun violence in the US. The state logged a yearly average of 320 deaths and 760 gun-related injuries from 2015 to 2019. It also has the fourth-highest rate of gun-related suicides and suicide attempts, with an average of around 235 gun-related suicides each year.
The federal government updated its guidance for employers, saying companies may require their workers to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Additionally, they may offer incentives for employees who voluntarily receive vaccinations, such as paid time off or bonuses as long, as they are not coercive.
In April, the Biden Administration announced it would grant tax incentives to any small businesses that offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. Companies both small and large have used incentives and flexible company policies to increase employee vaccination rates.
The new guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) includes protections for workers who may refuse the vaccine due to underlying medical conditions or conflicting religious beliefs, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Employers who determine that an employee who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability are a risk others are not allowed to bar them from the workplace unless there is no accommodation they can take “that would eliminate or reduce this risk so the unvaccinated employee does not pose a direct threat,” according to the guidelines. The same goes for employees who have religious objections to receiving the vaccine.
In neither case do employers have the right to automatically fire workers who cannot receive the vaccine. First they must determine whether the employee has rights under local and national discrimination laws.
However, experts say most employers will probably simply request their workers get vaccinated, rather than forcefully compel them. Although public confidence in the vaccine has increased, a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 27% of respondents “probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were available for free and deemed safe by scientists.” Forcing workers to take the shot or leave their jobs could backfire on employers.
There are also potential legal risks for employers. If a required vaccination causes harm to a worker, it could likely spur a workers compensation claim against their employer, employment law attorney Jay Rosenlieb told AARP.
“It’s a treacherous area for employers,” Rosenlieb said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance on Thursday: Vaccinated people can go without face masks in nearly every situation, marking a huge step in returning to pre-pandemic ways.
But some states have more vaccinated residents than others, and they’re not quite ready to lift mask mandates until vaccination rates are higher. A spokeswoman for North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, for example, said they would be waiting for health state officials to review lifting the indoor mask mandate, and President Joe Biden said after the CDC’s announcement that some Americans might not be ready to walk around freely without a mask.
“Please treat them with kindness and respect,” he said. “We’ve had too much conflict, too much bitterness, too much anger, too much politicization of this issue about wearing masks. Let’s put it to rest.”
While states can’t force their residents to get vaccinated, they can offer incentives that might sway vaccine-reluctant residents to get shots in their arms, and some are even using stimulus funds from Biden’s American Rescue Plan to do so. For example, Ohio is using stimulus money to offer $1 million to five vaccinated residents at random, and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is working on using stimulus money to create $100 savings bonds for vaccinated young people.
Here are seven states using unconventional incentives to get their residents vaccinated.
Connecticut is launching the #CTDrinksOnUs campaign, where participating restaurants will begin offering free alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to residents that bring in their vaccination cards.
To take part in the promotion, all residents need to do is show proof of vaccine, and then they can select their desired free drink from from a pre-set list. This is limited to one drink per person, and a food purchase is also required.
For anyone who is missing Chicago’s concert scene, proof of vaccination will be enough to access summer events in the city.
Chicago is launching the “Vax Pass,” which will allow vaccinated individuals to get exclusive deals at summer concerts, and it could also extend to barber shops and salons.
“So certainly, as we build vaccine confidence and convenience, we’re interested in thinking about ways to incentivize people to get the vaccine,” Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said. “I would hope that for most people, their their main incentive is to be able to stay healthy, keep their families healthy, keep their communities healthy. But we also know, younger people in particular, may be excited about the idea of getting into events.”
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said the state would not be issuing vaccine passports, but Chicago will move forward with the Vax Pass this month.
Kentucky is partnering with Kroger and Walmart to give every vaccinated adult a free Cash Ball 225 ticket, where a top prize is $225,000.
All residents needs to do is go to a Kroger or Walmart location in Kentucky to get their vaccine, and once the shot is in their arms, they will receive a coupon to get a free Kentucky lottery ticket.
Kentucky Lottery President and CEO Mary Harville said in a statement that “we hope that by literally injecting a little fun into the process, more people will get vaccinated.”
These coupons can be redeemed at any Kentucky Lottery retailer through June 1, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear hopes this incentive will be what every Kentucky resident needs to get a vaccine.
“Helping keep our Kentucky communities safe and a free chance at winning hundreds of thousands of dollars is a win-win for everyone involved,” he said in a statement.
From free hunting and fishing licenses to tickets to a baseball game, Maine is offering a range of incentives to encourage its residents to get vaccinated.
Effective through May 31, any Maine resident who gets vaccinated is eligible for “Your Shot to Get Outdoor,” which allows residents to choose one of the following rewards:
A free fishing license;
A free hunting license;
A Maine Wildlife Park pass;
A Maine State Park day pass;
A $20 LL Bean gift card;
A Sea Dogs admission ticket;
Or an Oxford Plains Speedway pass.
Incentives will be processed between May 17 and June 1.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy launched the “Shot and a Beer” program for all residents (aged 21+, of course), that allows any New Jerseyan to bring their vaccination card to a participating brewery for a free beer.
This program is active for the whole month of May.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at the beginning of May that the Yankees and the Mets will give free tickets to fans who get vaccinated at the ballparks before games.
The announcement of this incentive also came with the plan to split up stadiums in which vaccinated fans could sit in a section without social distancing, while those who are unvaccinated would still have to abide by the six-feet rule.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also worked on developing incentives, like allowing free admission to New York’s Museum of Natural History, where visitors can get their shots under the giant blue whale.
“We’re gonna be looking to do incentives just like that to give people great opportunities when they get vaccinated,” de Blasio said in a briefing.
Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine announced on Tuesday that he will offer five $1 million prizes to vaccinated adults, along with with five full-ride scholarships to state schools for vaccinated teens.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” DeWine said when announcing the plan. “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.”
Any vaccinated Ohio resident, 18 years and older, are eligible for the $1 million lottery, and 12- to 17-year-olds can sign up for the scholarship drawing through an electronic portal that will open on May 18.
To fund these incentives, DeWine is using money from Biden’s stimulus package to encourage vaccinations.