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Minnesota to offer giveaways for getting COVID-19 vaccine

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz hopes giveaways including Minnesota State Fair tickets, fishing licenses and state park passes will help pick up the pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Minnesota, which has slowed recently.

According to Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann, the governor on Thursday will announce that 100,000 people who are vaccinated between Memorial Day weekend and the end of June will be eligible for the items.

The goal is to have 70% of Minnesotans 16 and older vaccinated by July 1, a target President Joe Biden has set for the country. The state sits at 64% — more than 2.8 million residents — with at least one dose of vaccine as of Monday, just shy of Biden’s goal but higher than the national average of nearly 50% with one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccinations in Minnesota continue to climb, but at a much slower pace than in the early months of the state’s vaccine campaign. More than 2.5 million Minnesota residents 16 and older have been fully inoculated.

Virus cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have continued to decline in recent weeks after a bump in cases last month driven by virus variants.

State health officials reported zero deaths earlier this week for the third time this month, and daily deaths haven’t totaled more than 22 in months.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan released a statement on Wednesday criticizing Walz for offering the incentives to get vaccinated while continuing to offer unemployment benefits, which she called “excessive” and an incentive to not return to the workforce.

“With Minnesota’s small businesses struggling to find employees and rebuild, Walz should be encouraging Minnesotans to rejoin the workforce to increase their own individual opportunity and economic opportunities.”

Other states are using lotteries as an incentive to get more people vaccinated, including Ohio, Colorado, Maryland, New York state and Oregon.

A southwestern Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination prize, while a Dayton-area teen was awarded the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the incentive program, the state announced Wednesday night.

More than 2.7 million adults signed up for the $1 million prize in Ohio and more than 104,000 children ages 12 to 17 entered the drawing for the college scholarship.

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