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NY: Get vaccinated for a shot at $5 million

WXXI's Karen DeWitt reports that New York state is increasing the rewards for getting the COVID-19 vaccine with a chance to win the lottery.

Credit Governor Cuomo's office

New York state is dealing with a severe decline in COVID-19 vaccination rates by offering free lottery tickets to those who agree to get a shot, starting Monday.

While over half of New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated, the rest of the population seems more reluctant to get their shots. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said beginning next week, all state vaccination sites will give away lottery tickets, worth $20, to anyone who agrees to get a dose.

The top prize is $5 million, and Cuomo said there are smaller prizes as well, with a 1-in-9 chance of winning. And, he said, you also get protection from a deadly disease.

“Everybody wins,” Cuomo said.

He also said vaccinated New Yorkers have better access to sporting events and theaters and can take off their masks in most situations.

The lottery giveaway will run through May 28. The governor said if it’s successful, the program will be extended into June.

Cuomo said the state also plans to set up vaccination sites at major airports for New Yorkers flying to countries that require the vaccine for entry. 

The governor also addressed news reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that say federal prosecutors have widened an investigation into whether the governor and his aides hid the true number of nursing home residents who died from the virus. Cuomo denies that. The Department of Justice is also looking at whether the governor improperly gave family and friends priority access to coronavirus tests.

As recently as April 3, according to the reports, Cuomo's daughter and her boyfriend were given special priority to get a test and receive rapid results, because they were planning to visit Cuomo for Easter.

Cuomo said he did not do anything different that other governors and even former President Donald Trump, who required that all visitors be tested for the virus.

“I was running COVID response for this state,” Cuomo said. “So I didn’t want to get COVID.”

Cuomo called the investigation, which began when Trump was president and has expanded during the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden, a sign of “toxic political times.”

He spoke in public for the first time since his tax returns revealed that he will be paid up to $5.12 million for a memoir he published about the pandemic. The writing and editing of the book is also under investigation by the federal prosecutors and state Attorney General Tish James and the subject of an impeachment inquiry by the state Assembly.

The governor is accused of using staff to help write and edit the book; he has said they volunteered their time.

Cuomo was asked by a reporter about criticism from some families who lost loved ones to COVID-19, who are angry and say that he profited “on the backs of dead New Yorkers."

“That’s stupid,” Cuomo answered.

Later, he clarified that he was critiquing the reporter’s question, not the families.

“I thought your question was stupid and offensive,” said Cuomo, who defended his writing of the book as a way to teach people what lessons were learned during the first wave of the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

“And if we don’t learn the lessons, we’re going to continue to make the same mistakes,” he said.  

Outside the governor’s briefing, the state’s Republican Party chair, Nick Langworthy, held a media event to ask Cuomo to release the entire book contract. Cuomo refused, saying he’s already given the relevant details in his tax returns.

Copyright 2021 WXXI News