WILMINGTON — Normally, when Sophie Poindexter receives a phone call from a number she doesn’t recognize, she lets it go to voicemail.
But for some reason, she answered a call from an unknown number a couple weeks ago. On the other line was Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Dr. Rattay delivered some life-changing news. Ms. Poindexter, a Newark resident, was the $302,000 grand-prize winner of Delaware’s COVID-19 incentive program, DE Wins!
“I never pick up the phone, but I woke up and, for some reason, was like, ‘I should answer this,’” Ms. Poindexter said. “I picked up, and they said I should sit down. They told me I was the winner, and I had to take a couple minutes, wondering if this was real.”
On Monday, Ms. Poindexter was presented an oversized check by Gov. John Carney at Bardea Food & Drink in Wilmington.
All Delawareans vaccinated before June 30 were eligible for the grand prize. Ms. Poindexter, a 2021 University of Delaware graduate, received her vaccine back in March, as part of the state’s Phase 1B distribution group.
She was able to get hers before others in her age group due to her status as an essential worker at Caffe Gelato Restaurant & Catering in Newark.
“I wanted to get vaccinated immediately,” Ms. Poindexter said. “I live at home, and I wasn’t able to see a lot of my friends this year, since I live at home and my parents are at risk. Getting vaccinated definitely took a big weight off my shoulders.
“It’s your duty. You really need to do it just to be safe, not only for yourself but for everybody else around you,” she added. “I think it’s just a good act to make sure everybody could be safe again. I’ve seen people lose family members and people they were close to during COVID, and this can help us move forward from that.”
Ms. Poindexter said she was unaware the state even had an incentive program until she received the call from Dr. Rattay.
DE Wins! launched May 25 to help the state reach President Joe Biden’s goal of 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4. Delaware was one of 20 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam, to achieve this mark. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent data, 71.4% of Delawareans 18 and older have received at least one dose.
Since May 25, 22 individuals have claimed various prizes, including $5,000, vacation packages, Delaware State Park passes and tickets to events.
Only Delawareans vaccinated between May 25 and June 29 were eligible for the weekly prizes. But for the grand prizes, all vaccinated individuals were eligible, regardless of when they received their shots.
Two other people won grand prizes of low-digit license plates, but their names have not been released. Winners can choose to remain anonymous.
Gov. Carney thanked Ms. Poindexter for coming forward, hoping her message can reach others in her 18-34-year-old demographic, where the state has had difficulty in terms of vaccinations — 43.9% of this age group has received at least one dose.
“We struggle with that demographic, 18 to 34, young adults, who are vaccinated at a rate significantly less than those in the older cohorts, 65 and older,” Gov. Carney said. “As a result, we have a real difference within our community among the vaccinated and unvaccinated. The CDC has said that if you’re vaccinated, you’re safe and you’re clear. The problem is, and particularly in certain demographics, we don’t have a vaccination rate over 50%.”
Dr. Rattay said Delaware still has less than 50% of its population fully vaccinated, despite the incentive program. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose in their series of shots.
With the rise of the delta variant, Dr. Rattay encouraged those who are either partially vaccinated or unvaccinated to find a vaccine. A full list of vaccination clinics is available here.
“It is critical to us that we continue to get even more and more Delawareans vaccinated,” Dr. Rattay said. “We do not want to go backwards.”
As for Ms. Poindexter, she said she will save most of the $302,000 but will make sure to plan a vacation. It has made her job search post-graduation less stressful.
“I’m a big saver, not a big spender, but I will treat myself a little bit,” she said. “I want to put a little bit aside to do some traveling but definitely save some to help it grow. I do have a job search to do, but this makes me a little more relaxed.”