DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis on Friday announced that Sally Sliger of Mead was the first $1 million winner of the Colorado Comeback Cash COVID-19 vaccine drawing.
"The odds of me and my family being given $1 million overnight seemed impossibly small," Sliger said at a news conference Friday at the Governor's Residence. "Even with this winning, I’m still having a hard time believing our luck of the draw."
The Colorado Lottery is holding five drawings between June 4 and July 7. Anyone 18 and older who is a Colorado resident and has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine will be automatically entered. You can check if your record is in the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS) here.
Sliger said she can not quite remember how she found out she was a millionaire.
“I don’t really recall that few minutes of my life," Sliger said.
She said that she received a text from the state health department to call back about the contest.
"I believe she said that I was a potential winner if I met the eligibility criteria," Sliger said.
She suspected some funny business, but the phone number said it was, indeed, the state health department.
Sliger is a health-care worker who said she was born in Colorado and has lived with her family in Mead for two decades. She said she got her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in March and the second dose in April. She said she plans to invest her winnings in her retirement account and supporting her sons' future.
As a health-care worker, Sliger said she's proud of the work her colleagues have done.
>Video below: Sally Sliger becomes first to win Colorado's vaccine sweepstakes.
"I’ve worked in health care for years, and we’ve never seen such pain and devastation as what’s come along with this pandemic," she said. "This is a responsibility to be a representative of this program now, so I'd like to take that seriously. That's easy because I believe in the vaccination program."
She said she hasn't contracted COVID-19 but that some family members have and that she had friends who passed away.
"When the wait was over, there was no doubt that I would receive the vaccination," she said.
Polis said on Friday that any adult who was vaccinated in Colorado and received a vaccination card from the provider is eligible for the drawings, whether their name is in CIIS or not. He said vaccine providers are legally required to submit the information from vaccine cards to the state.
The first winner was not someone who received the vaccination because of the contest.
"There's a few folks who don't want to get it, resist it, we're not going to change their mind with this, but there's a lot more folks, probably 20-30% of the population out there that is abstractly thinking, 'yeah, I'll get vaccinated,' but just hasn't gotten around to it," said Polis.
Sliger said she didn't look before the drawing to see if her information was in CIIS, but she found on Friday that her vaccination record was in the portal.
How does the drawing work exactly?
It does not involve nearly three million bingo balls like a Powerball drawing.
"This process looks a little bit different from the balls. You just see a computer screen with lots of numbers being drawn," said Emily Stewart, Colorado Lottery's Drawing Manager.
The state health department has a list of people who have received at least one vaccine that has been converted to numbers. The Colorado Lottery's "random number generator" picks random numbers within the range given by the state health department. The lottery picks 26 numbers. One winner and 25 potential backups, in case the winner cannot be contacted or does not want to be publicly identified, which is required to win.
"One number was like 2,000,700, where another person was drawn was like 80,000," said Stewart. "All of the Colorado Lottery draws are done with an auditor onsite. They come in and watch the draw and then certify it."
With 767 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, Polis encouraged people who haven't get been vaccinated to do so.
"We have a vaccine that works," he said. "There’s simply no need for this ongoing pandemic when we have the tools to stop it."
The vaccine sweepstakes is funded by federal funds through the CARES Act and is intended to encourage more Coloradans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The dates for the drawings are:
- June 4
- June 11
- June 18
- June 25
- July 7
Adults who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 11:59 p.m. the Tuesday before the next drawing whose vaccination record is in the CIIS system will be eligible to win.
Polis also announced this week that Colorado kids ages 12 to 17 who have at least one dose of the vaccine will be eligible for one of 25 $50,000 scholarships. Five winners will be announced each week for five weeks starting on June 11.
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