MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s $100 reward program for those receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will be extended two weeks until Sept. 19, Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday.
Also, the state’s second-highest ranking health official who has been the public face for fighting the pandemic announced she is retiring in a week.
The departure of Julie Willems Van Dijk, 61, means that the state’s two top health officials at the start of the pandemic in 2020 have now left.
Extending the $100 incentive, which began Aug. 20 and was originally scheduled to end on Monday, will give an opportunity for even more people to get vaccinated, Evers said. Between Aug. 20 and Sept. 1, more than 65,000 people received their first dose.
Evers launched the program amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across the state caused by the more infectious delta variant. The seven-day average of new cases in Wisconsin is at a level not seen since early January, before the vaccine was widely available. The number of people hospitalized is also at levels not seen since January.
On Aug. 22, the day before Evers announced the program, the seven-day average of vaccinations in Wisconsin was 8,360. That grew to 9,712 as of Wednesday. More than 3 million people are fully vaccinated in Wisconsin, about 52% of the total population. Among adults age 18 and over, more than 62% are fully vaccinated.
Willems Van Dijk, who has spearheaded the state’s response to COVID-19, will retire effective Sept. 10, Evers’ administration said. Her departure comes after her boss, former Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, quit in January to join the Biden administration as deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Health Services.
“After nearly 40 years of service as a nurse and public health leader, it is time that I recommit to the needs of my family,” Willems Van Dijk said in a statement.
Deb Standridge will replace Willems Van Dijk. Standridge served as executive director of the state’s now-shuttered COVID-19 field hospital at the state fair grounds.