Governor Jim Justice

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s new vaccine lottery is off to a strong start.

More than 70,000 vaccinated residents of West Virginia have already signed up for the lottery in hopes of winning a million dollars come June 20.

Governor Jim Justice announced the news Tuesday during his bi-weekly virtual pandemic briefing,

confirming that more than 70,000 people have already signed up for the “Do it for Babydog: Save a life, Change a life” vaccine sweepstakes.

The vaccine lottery is named after the Republican governor’s dog.

“On Father’s Day, we will make someone in West Virginia a millionaire,”

Justice said.

West Virginians ages 12 and older who have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can register by visiting doitforbabydog.

The giveaway will include a $1.588 million grand prize, a $588,000 second prize, weekly drawings for $1 million, full scholarships to any higher education institution in West Virginia, custom-outfitted trucks, weekend vacations at state parks, lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, custom hunting rifles and custom hunting shotguns.

“You’ve got to register to be eligible,” Justice said. “Anyone who has received their first shot will be eligible.”

Out of 367,011 West Virginians ages 65 and older who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, 310,421 individuals have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the governor’s office.

As part of the recently announced “Call to Arms” vaccine initiative, state officials are hoping to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to 85 percent of all residents ages 65 and older by West Virginia’s 158th birthday on June 20.

Justice also reiterated Tuesday that the state’s mask mandate is still ending June 20 for everyone, even though he is still frustrated by the number of people who not yet have been vaccinated.

“From the standpoint of our masks, we know we are going to be close enough, our masks are going to be gone on our state’s birthday,” he said.

Justice, who is now only holding a pandemic briefing twice a week, said 15 new virus-related deaths have been reported in the Mountain State since his last pandemic briefing on June 4. One of those 15 deaths was a resident of Mercer County, which pushed the county’s number of virus-related deaths to date to 120.

“I don’t get it,” Justice said of people who are skeptical of or opposed to taking the vaccine. “I really don’t get it. We’ve got to get vaccinated. We’ve got 15 more people we’ve lost. One of them is a 40-yearold.”

Despite the new deaths, virus cases are still trending in the right direction in West Virginia.

Only 96 new coronavirus cases were reported statewide in the last 24 hours, and the number of active virus cases in the state has fallen to 3,431 cases. Locally, Mercer County is now down to 242 active virus cases and McDowell County is reporting 45 active cases. Monroe County is down to 35 active virus cases.

“This is good stuff,” Justice said. “Good indicators. But we’ve gotta do more.”

Although the twice a week virtual sessions are still called pandemic briefings, Justice is increasingly talking about things that are not pandemic related during the sessions. For example, on Tuesday he applauded the Republican super majority in Charleston for agreeing to use $150 million in state surplus dollars for the maintenance and repair of secondary roads across the Mountain State.

The purpose of Monday’s special session was to handle spending for the $902 million in federal stimulus dollars received by the state. But lawmakers also agreed Monday to Justice’s request to allocate $150 million in surplus funds toward road projects across the state.

“We can take $150 million of our surplus and pour it into roads,” Justice said. “Pour it into the repair of slips and paving and everything into all 55 counties. I salute the Legislature and thank them in every way for stepping up.”

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline. com

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