Hogan announces Md. lottery for boosters

Last year, Maryland held a lottery to encourage people to get vaccinated. On Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the state will do the same for boosters.

The VaxCash 2.0 lottery will follow in the footsteps of the VaxCash and VaxU contests, which awarded money to adults and scholarship help to students, respectively, who got vaccines, Hogan said at a news conference.

The new lottery will award a total of $2 million over 12 weeks to those who get boosters on top of their two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or their one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — the first week’s prize will be a $500,000, while a $50,000 prize will be awarded in each of weeks two through 11 and $1 million in the 12th week.

Anyone 18 and older who gets all their shots in Maryland is automatically entered, including those who are already boosted, Hogan said, adding that “the sooner you get your booster, the more drawings you’ll be entered in.”

He said he hoped the prizes would have an influence on “those who are the fence, or who just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

The governor said he wanted to cut through “conflicting and confusing” federal guidance on boosters, saying that lots of people didn’t know whether they needed one, or whether they were eligible.

“It’s simple,” Hogan said: If you’re over 18, you should get a booster. In fact, “No one should consider themselves fully protected unless you’ve had a booster shot.”

Hogan added that hospital-based testing sites will be converted to give out booster shots as well.

The governor pointed to statistics showing that people who aren’t boosted are twice as likely to be infected with the coronavirus, three times more likely to be hospitalized and three times more likely to die.

Vaccination milestone

The announcement came as Maryland reported that more than 95% of Maryland adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and the state’s numbers look dramatically better than during the surge of the omicron variant.

After peaking last month just below 3,500, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland have dropped to 1,111, and the test positivity rate dropped to 5.81% after last month coming close to 30%.

“Just as quickly as it came up, it came back down,” Health Director Dr. Jinlene Chan said — “not without a lot of consequences.”

“We have turned back another dangerous variant of COVID-19,” Hogan declared. While the danger of another contagious variant is always out there, he said he was optimistic.

“We’re all hopeful that we’re not going to have another omicron situation,” Hogan said. “… We can’t be guaranteed that there’s not another one in the future, but we’re much more prepared than we were.”

Hogan also announced a poster contest for children to show appreciation for the health care workers whom the governor credited with the state’s rebound from the surge. He added that Government House, M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards would be lit up in blue in honor of those workers.

No run for Senate

Saying he intended to “run through the tape” on the rest of his term, which ends in January 2023, Hogan said he will not be a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

While working on last week’s State of the State Address, Hogan said Tuesday, he was reminded “just how important it is that I finish the job we’re doing.”

He said he had informed fellow Republicans Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott, of Florida, about his decision. He said he also called Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat up for reelection, and told him he “can rest easy and get a good night’s sleep tonight.”

Hogan didn’t say what he’d do after his term was over, however: “In January 2023, I’ll have plenty of time to think about what the future holds.”

As for whether he’ll run for president in 2024, “That election’s pretty far off,” Hogan said. He said he’d base his decision on “Whether I think I would make a difference.” Asked whether the potential candidacy of former President Donald Trump would influence his decision, Hogan said, “It doesn’t matter whether the former president runs or not.”

No ban on mask mandates

While there’s no statewide mask mandate in Maryland, and state officials tend to encourage local officials to drop such orders, Hogan said he wasn’t going to issue the kind of ban on mask mandates in school that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued on his first day in office — a move that’s now tied up in court challenges.

“I don’t believe we have the authority to tell the school boards to do what I say,” Hogan said. “Those school boards were elected.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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