RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — COVID-19 cases in North Carolina have sharply increased over the past couple of weeks and health officials are hoping a new incentive will lead to more people getting vaccinated.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday afternoon that some vaccine sites will now offer $100 Summer Cards for those 18 and older who are getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The $100 cards will be handed out through Aug. 31 at participating locations while supplies last, NCDHHS said.
“Vaccination is how we end this pandemic and put our masks away,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “The delta variant is highly contagious, and the vast majority of severe cases are among those who are not vaccinated. We are using every tool in the toolbox to get more people to get their shots— don’t wait until it’s too late.”
The state was previously offering $25 Summer Cards to those getting their first dose or to the person who was driving someone else to get vaccinated.
The state will continue to offer the $25 cards to those who drive others to their vaccination appointment. Drivers will receive a $25 card each time they take someone to a first dose appointment after the person has received their shot.
There is no limit to how many times a driver can take someone to get their first dose, but only one card will be given out at a time.
The cash cards are meant to offset the time and transportation costs that go along with getting vaccinated, according to the state.
“This is an expansion of our successful $25 Summer Card,” said NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health Kody Kinsley. “It’s a part of the nationwide effort to get more people vaccinated to stop the severe illness, hospitalization and death being caused by the Delta variant which, unfortunately, is now dominant in North Carolina. We know that many people want to get vaccinated but are concerned about taking time off work or can’t afford transportation. The $100 Summer Cards should be a big help.”
So far, more than 61 percent of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The announcement came as the state is seeing the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 rising each day. On Tuesday, NCDHHS reported 1,465 people are in hospitals across the state with COVID-19. One month ago, that number was 381.
Cooper has not reinstated a statewide mask requirement, though he is urging people to follow the CDC’s latest guidance, which calls for everyone to wear masks in public indoor settings in communities with substantial or high transmission of the virus regardless of their vaccination status.
“All options are on the table with us when it comes to the health and safety of North Carolinians. But, we have to zero in on the vaccinations, and that’s where we’re putting all of our efforts,” Cooper said. “We are concerned deeply about these numbers. We know that vaccinations are the way out of this, and we’re going to be laser focused on it.”
Data from NCDHHS through July 14 shows the state distributed 15,723 cash cards. Of those, 10,790 went to people who got the COVID-19 vaccine, while the remaining 4,933 cards went to people who drove them to vaccination sites. About 61 percent of the cards went to people in Mecklenburg County, which was among the first four counties where people could get the cards as part of a pilot program earlier this year.
For those interested in taking part in the Summer Card program, call 888-675-4567 or click here for more information.