California vaccine lottery: Winners in L.A., Orange and Riverside counties selected for $50,000 prizes

Winners in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties were among the 15 California residents selected during the drawing for the second round of $50,000 cash prizes in the state's "Vax for the Win" COVID-19 vaccine incentive program. As was the case last week, Friday morning's draw was held during a news conference featuring a game-show [...]

California vaccine lottery: Winners in L.A., Orange and Riverside counties selected for $50,000 prizes

Winners in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties were among the 15 California residents selected during the drawing for the second round of $50,000 cash prizes in the state's "Vax for the Win" COVID-19 vaccine incentive program.

As was the case last week, Friday morning's draw was held during a news conference featuring a game-show like set up with the winners picked from a lottery ball machine in Sacramento. The mascot for the NBA's Sacramento Kings joined the festivities this time around.

And Gov. Gavin Newsom, who drew the numbers last week, spoke from a different location in San Diego County.

Those who were chosen for the second batch of $50,000 prizes included two people from Los Angeles County, and one resident apiece in Orange and Riverside counties. Last week, three people from L.A. County and one from Orange County were among the group of 15.

Newsom noted that the state was only able to track down 13 of the winners from last week, and two backups were selected to receive the prize.

Next Tuesday, when California anticipates lifting the bulk of its coronavirus healthy and safety measures, the state will hold its grand prize drawing. On that day, 10 vaccinated Californians will each be awarded $1.5 million.

More than 21 million residents ages 12 and up in the state have received at least one dose of the coronavirus shot and are eligible to win the cash prizes from the vaccine lottery.

Winners are being identified during the draw only by anonymous numbers and the county they're from in an effort to protect their privacy.

Once contacted by the state, they have the option to come forward publicly, as one winner did Wednesday evening.

"I got the call last Friday. At first I thought it was a joke," recalled the man, who identified himself only as Tony.

But he soon realized it was anything but a prank.

"All of a sudden I found that I won. I'm so grateful," Tony said in a video released by Newsom's office. "I'm still in disbelief a little bit."

The California Department of Public Health will notify winners by telephone, text, email or other information that is in their record in the state's vaccine registry. If the person can't be reached for 96 hours after the first attempt however, someone else will get the prize instead.

On top of the lottery, California is giving out $50 gift cards to the first 2 million residents who get vaccinated beginning on May 27.

The $116.5 million in total prizes — which officials touted as the largest state vaccine incentive program in the nation — is part of an effort to boost vaccination rates ahead of June 15, when California expects to fully reopen its economy after a year-plus of pandemic-related restrictions.

As of Friday, the state has administered more than 40 million COVID-19 shots, with more than 70% of adults having received at least one jab, according to Newsom.

And in another milestone, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations dropped below 1,000 for the first time in over a year, he said.

Check back for updates on this developing story.