This story was updated on Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 5:45 p.m. with additional details.
The city of Chattanooga on Thursday announced a new raffle offer of $ 1,000 per week to encourage Hamilton County residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Mayor Tim Kelly said Thursday the city will give away $ 1,000 and one month of free parking to a winner every Thursday, starting August 19.
“The incentives are working,” Kelly said. “I’m an economist at heart, and we know they work. We know they move the needle. So that’s something we’ve been playing for a while.”
The first winner will receive an additional prize of two round-trip tickets on American Airlines to any destination served by the airline. For domestic flights, the winner and one guest will travel first class.
The raffle covers anyone who has been fully vaccinated, even in the spring. But to encourage new vaccine takers, the city will also be offering a separate prize of $ 500 to someone who receives a first injection within the first six weeks of the “Vax 4 Cash” program.
Kelly, who said in May that he intended to ‘gamify’ vaccines – as governments of other states made similar incentives – has doubled recovery from COVID-19 in recent weeks by requiring masks in town facilities and starting immunization events at community centers in Chattanooga, which are now closed for regular use.
“We have to try different strategies because I have spoken to other mayors in the state, and everyone is frozen at this level,” he said in May, as he lifted the restrictions and was promoting vaccines amid a much lower number of cases. “Look, we’ve got to have some dramatic increases before we can really get through this.
“We’re, to some extent, I think, whistling past the graveyard if we don’t increase that rate before a variant appears and passes the goalie, so to speak.”
On Thursday, Kelly said the administration had spent time since hearing about other state lottery programs working on legal and logistical issues to launch.
Also around this time, the delta variant and other mutations of the virus caused epidemics across the world, especially in under-vaccinated areas. In Hamilton County, where just over 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, daily and active cases rose to January highs, with 245 new cases reported on Wednesday.
“The delta variant of COVID-19 is even causing young and healthy admissions to our intensive care unit, which is detrimental to their health and finances,” said Mary Lambert, the city’s director of public health, noting the 519 deaths from COVID-19 in the county. . “I understand from our friends in the county health department that the last two deaths from COVID were healthy people in their 40s. The only other thing they had in common was that they weren’t vaccinated.
“While we are seeing a slight increase in vaccinations – and any increase is a good thing – we are also seeing a sharp increase in infections.”
Kelly said it creates choice for residents.
“Unfortunately, we find ourselves at another crossroads. Today we are starting to see cases growing at a rate similar to what we saw in the darker days of 2020, which is why we had to take the lead. tough decision to close our community centers until we see a reversal of the current trend, ”Kelly said Thursday. “So each of us in Chattanooga and Hamilton County has a very simple choice. Get vaccinated against the virus or risk serious illness, huge hospital bills and long-term health effects or even death. dead.”
In addition to public health, Kelly says an incentive is the economically sound way to increase vaccines and prevent the virus from promoting further economic shutdowns, as the city experienced last year.
“For those who are concerned about our economy and another possible shutdown, public health is economic health. One is not possible without the other,” Kelly said. “So the best way to bring this pandemic under control is to have at least 70% of our population vaccinated, period.”
Asked about the possibility of a second economic shutdown locally, Kelly said he was concerned about the potential if vaccination rates did not pick up.
“Of course I’m worried. I mean, it’s a bit unthinkable thing, but I think the spikes we’re seeing here and in other areas that don’t have sufficient vaccination rates are frightening.” said Kelly. “And again, by allowing the delta variant to circulate, we risk another mutation of the virus, which could become even more frightening and even more deadly.”
The prize will be presented by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce to a winner who registers online or in person and has been proven to have been vaccinated.
“As we face the current challenges of COVID-19 and the new delta variant, which has made even young and healthy people sick, it is all the more important that we work together to slow the spread and regain the momentum we saw against COVID-19 just a few weeks ago, “said Justin Groenert, chamber vice president of public policy.” The only permanent way to end this pandemic is keeping our city open for business is to vaccinate our exit. ”
As the federal government continues to strengthen the American Rescue Plan Act’s funding rules, a representative from the mayor’s office said the city will try to fund the program using part of the $ 38.6 million it has. received in COVID relief funds.
The raffle is funded to run for 20 weeks once it begins, but may be extended depending on its effectiveness and funding.
Kelly urged companies wishing to donate a prize for the raffle to contact the mayor’s office at 423-643-7800 or [email protected]
To enter the raffle, city or county residents who are over the age of 18 who have been vaccinated through a program associated with the Hamilton County Department of Health can enter sweepstakes.chattanooga. gov or fill out a paper form at the Chattanooga Public Library. .
Entrants must be 18 to win, and city and county employees are not excluded.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at [email protected]