The City Is Offering Milwaukeeans $100 Gift Cards to Get the COVID Vaccine

The incentive program starts this Thursday.

Milwaukee residents can receive a $100 gift card after getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at any Milwaukee Health Department clinic under a new incentive plan announced Tuesday by the city.

Starting Thursday, Feb. 3, there will be 1,000 gift cards available at the Milwaukee Health Department’s Northwest Health Center (7630 W. Mill Road), Southside Health Center (1639 S. 23rd St.) and Menomonee Valley Site (2401 W. St. Paul Ave.), as well as at all mobile sites.

“Take advantage of this opportunity to protect your health, the health of our community, and earn some extra money,” Acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said in a virtual session with reporters.

The funding for the incentive program comes from a grant along with revenue generated from the city’s COVID-19 testing sites.

The gift card program is expected to last about four days, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said.

“These programs do make an impact on individuals who maybe were reluctant to get vaccinated previously,” she said. “I think the impetus this time is that we had the funding, so there’s money to pay for it and the capacity with our staff to do it. We just thought the timing was good.”

Receiving the initial vaccines along with a booster is important in controlling the spread of COVID-19, Johnson said.

“It’s heartbreaking to continue to receive the list of Milwaukeeans who lost their lives to this virus when the vaccine is free and readily available,” she said. “I know we are all ready for the day when COVID-19 doesn’t dictate decisions we make for ourselves and our families but the only way to get there is through vaccination.”

Only 56.5% of Milwaukeeans five years and older have received one dose of the vaccine, leaving more than 250,000 Milwaukeeans still unvaccinated.

“I hope this incentive encourages those who are on the fence to make the life-saving decision to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Johnson said.

COVID-19 cases in Milwaukee continue to decline but remain in the extreme transmission category at 400 cases per 100,000 residents, down from 778.3 cases per 100,000 residents one week earlier. Testing metrics also remain at the extreme level, with a positivity rate of 14.5%, down from the week-ago figure of 21%.

The number of Milwaukee adults 16 years of age and older who have received both vaccine doses stands at 62.2%, with 67.6% having received at least one dose. The number of individuals who are fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot stands at 42.7%.

“We are continuing to see a decrease in disease burden in our community,” Cavalier Johnson said. “Although we are seeing improvement will still remain in the extreme transmission category and we need to continue practicing the appropriate safety measures like wearing masks, washing our hands and watching our distance and, of course, getting vaccinated.”

Milwaukee County is experiencing an average of 517 new cases of COVID-19 per day, down from 975 new cases per day last week. An average of five people in the county are dying of COVID-19 per day, down from eight daily deaths a week ago.

“We are seeing encouraging trends in declining cases, lower positivity and declining hospitalizations,” said Dr. Ben Weston, director of medical services in the county’s Office of Emergency Management. “While the trends are certainly in the right direction and we should celebrate that, it’s important to remember that the absolute numbers of each of these are still critically high. We have case counts, positivity rates and hospitalization numbers that would each be record setting prior to Omicron.”

Weston also spoke about the new Omicron variant BA.2, which continues to circulate around the world and is now reported in about half of the states in the U.S., including Wisconsin.

“BA.2 is becoming more and more widespread as it begins to outcompete the original Omicron (variant) in parts of Europe and Asia,” Weston said.

The variant appears to be more transmissible than the original Omicron strain and is rapidly becoming the dominant variant in many countries.

There are definite signs that the latest surge brought on by Omicron is easing, Weston said, but he urged caution.

“We’re not quite out of the woods yet,” he said. “We remain with high case counts, crowded hospitals and we have this new variant that may complicate our recovery and our trajectory as we trend down from Omicron.”



Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.