The threat of COVID-19 in Dallas County continues to ease, as cases and hospitalizations keep dropping and access to the COVID-19 vaccine increases.
More than a million people have received at least one vaccine in the county, according to the newest figures.
But that still leaves about 45% without any vaccination.
Dallas County leaders are determining whether the county can offer incentives that may convince the final holdouts.
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Other states are doing it. Ohio reported a boost in vaccinations after announcing $1 million vaccination lottery.
New York has been offering tickets to baseball games and museums.
Dallas restaurants like Deep Sushi have also been offering incentives hoping to bounce back from a difficult year.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tells NBC 5 the county has been searching for innovative ways to boost local vaccination numbers. The latest data reported to the county found about 45% of the county has not yet received at least one vaccine against the virus.
Hoping to improve that, the county is increasing pop-up vaccination sites, particularly in underserved areas, and looking to see if the county can provide some kind of monetary gift.
But there’s a problem.
“We’ve been looking at it for weeks and each time we run into a roadblock with the law here in Texas,” said Jenkins. “Right now, the law in Texas says [local government] can’t give a gift of more than $25.”
The county has been consulting with its legal advisors at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to see what options they have, if any.
“What we may be able to look at is raising money and giving it to some partner to do the incentives,” said Jenkins referring to a potential partner in the private sector.
The Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce recently unveiled a summer sweepstakes initiative offering roundtrip airfare and tickets to Cowboys games as incentives.
The campaign called ‘Taking Care of Business’ hopes to increase the vaccination percentage in North Texas by 10% this summer.
NBC 5 asked Jenkins where the money for cash incentives would come from. He responded by saying the funds would come from federal COVID-dollars as well as money raised locally.
The governor made it clear recently that there are no plans for a statewide COVID-19 vaccine lottery or sweepstakes.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he doesn't believe in using prizes as a motivator to getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
"As it comes to using something like what you've seen in other states, like a lottery for vaccines or some kind of monetary inducement or anything like that, we don't believe in using monetary inducements in the state of Texas," said Abbott.
Jenkins responded to the governor’s assertion by saying: “Generally, the governor’s record on COVID has not been stellar.”
Jenkins says about 93% of those hospitalized locally with coronavirus are unvaccinated people.
Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Philip Huang tells NBC 5 about 2.1 million doses have been administered in Dallas County.
An estimated 1.2 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That still leaves quite a few people who have not received a vaccine, so we’ve still got a long way to go,” said Huang. “Part of it is educating them, sort of dispelling disinformation that’s out there. But again, it’s starting to get to the harder-to-convince people.”
Huang welcomes efforts like monetary incentives in an effort to help slow the spread of the virus.
“The higher we can get the vaccination rates, that continues to slow down the spread in our entire community,” he said. “It helps protect some people, the few people who really for legitimate reasons can’t receive the vaccine perhaps or those who still remain vulnerable.”
Community volunteer Prisma Garcia has been helping people throughout the area register for the COVID-19 vaccine and says there’s still plenty of mistrust.
“I just get the sense that the people that are waiting, plan to keep waiting,” she said. “Incentives could help, but I don’t think it’s going to solve the whole problem, I think education is so important.”
Garcia says it’s important for local, community and faith leaders to speak out about their overall positive experiences receiving the vaccine, to provide a sense of trust among people who look to them.
Judge Jenkins says there is no indication as to if and when residents could see any cash incentives.
For now, he urges everyone to check for incentives already being provided by the chamber of commerce and independent businesses.