In a gameshow-style stage setup, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood in front of a cage full of numbered balls and chose 15 vaccinated Californians to win $50,000 each. Of those 15, three were selected from L.A. County.

According to the sweepstakes-style rules, all 21.5 million Californians who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to win in the “$50,000 Fridays,” or the grand prize of $1.5 million that will be given to 10 individuals on June 15, the date of California’s “full reopening.”

Using the state’s vaccine registry, the Department of Public Health used what the governor described as, “unique numeric indicators,” which were sent to the California Lottery to whittle down to 200 unique numbers that were then reduced further and printed on 50 lottery-style balls.

There were 15 winners chosen from those 50 balls Friday, with the remaining 35 balls to be used as backups in case one of the winners loses eligibility by either working in government, working with the Lottery, being family of someone who works in those sectors, or being incarcerated.

Aside from the three winners in L.A. County, there were three winners from San Diego, three from Santa Clara, two from San Francisco, and a winner from Mendocino, , Alameda, Orange and San Luis Obispo.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, we saw that decline in those first doses, we realized we needed to do a little bit more than our original outreach efforts,” Gov. Newsom said of the sweepstakes’ intention. “And that’s when we decided to move forward with incentives.”

There will be another drawing for $50,000 winners next Friday, as the state continues to use $116.5 million toward incentives.

As the vaccination incentive program was announced on May 27, Gov. Newsom saw pushback from multiple Republican leaders, including gubernatorial candidate John Cox who accused Newsom of “bribing” California citizens for votes.

“Thousands of small businesses have closed. Thousands more are on the brink. Millions of Californians have lost their jobs. Kids are sitting at home instead of in the classroom,” Cox said in a statement. “Instead of addressing those issues, Gavin Newsom is spending more than $100 million to buy votes before the recall. This is 100 million more reasons that Gavin Newsom must be recalled.”

Newsom did receive support from the California Department of Health, with the state’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón saying, “With more than 70% of adults having already received at least one dose, the Vax for the Win program is the creative approach we need to make that final push for those who remain unvaccinated.”

LA Weekly