Chamber, city announced vaccination incentive program

Ranney: ‘We are happy to be back. People are wanting to travel again’

Medical assistant Florelyn Adajar injects Rolando Gasmen with a dose of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine at Ilanka Community Health Center. (Feb. 6, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Being fully vaccinated in Cordova already offered protection from the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic. Now getting vaccinated may pay off even better.

The Cordova Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the city of Cordova, has launched a Cordova VaxCash Raffle using the same Cordova Cash Card platform through which Cordova residents received their local stimulus payment in 2020.

A series of these local gift cards will be loaded with amounts ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and any adult in Cordova who has been fully vaccinated can enter to win one, said Renfeldt, who announced the program on Monday, May 24. Winners must present their vaccination card in person in Cordova to claim their prize.

On the first day it was announced about 40 people signed up, said Cathy Renfeldt, executive director of the Cordova Chamber.

“People are excited about the raffle,” she said.

To encourage those who have questions or concerns about the vaccine, the chamber will also host a physicians roundtable Q&A in June via Zoom, which will be open to the public.

Details will be posted on the chamber’s Facebook and Instagram channels.

“We have trusted doctors in Cordova and people can ask them anything,” she said. “We understand there is a percentage of the population who doesn’t want to get vaccinated.”

The raffle is to encourage those not already vaccinated who just haven’t gotten around to it or still need answers to questions before getting the shot.

“I wonder if there are some people out there who worry that they might get sick (from the vaccine) and have to miss work, and in that case a little financial support might help,” she said.

Everyone physically present in Cordova, 18 or older, who is fully vaccinated is encouraged to sign up at covid19.cityofcordova.net to win one of these prizes. More information on Cordova Cash Cards, including a full list of participating businesses, is online at information on Cordova Cash Cards including the full list of participating businesses can be found cordovacashcard.com.

Cordova medical facilities are offering vaccine to anyone ages 12 and older. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 907-424-3045.

Behind the raffle is a concerted effort to get as many people as possible vaccinated so that businesses can focus more on their operations.

The city wants to keep local businesses open and safely host travelers to Cordova, while protecting each other, Renfeldt said. According to the most recent data, about 50% of Alaskans have been vaccinated. Another 30% plan to get vaccinated, but either are waiting to get more information, haven’t made time or just haven’t been motivated to get the shot. The other 20% have no intention of getting vaccinated.

Their hope is to encourage that 30% to get vaccinated.

Renfeldt is also optimistic about the revival of tourism this summer, as the number of people infected with the COVID-19 virus continues to drop.

President Joe Biden on May 24 signed H.R. 1318, the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, which allows cruise ships bringing passengers between Washington state and Alaska to bypass a stop in Canada, assuring Alaska of a portion of the usual thousands of visitors, but Cordova is more focused on those known in the industry as free independent travelers.

“There are a lot of independent travelers out there,” Renfeldt said. “Cordova will have a busy tourism season because of that.”

From the deck of the Orca Adventure Lodge, visitors enjoy a quiet evening overlooking Orca Inlet. Photo courtesy Orca Adventures

Orca Adventure Lodge, for one, is already busy with more bookings than usual for a normal year, said Steve Ranney, who operates the lodge, adventure tours and coffee shop with his wife, Wendy.

“We are happy to be back,” he said. “People are wanting to travel again. Last year (because of the pandemic) we were doing our part, mostly closed. Now there is a lot of excitement about coming to Alaska again.”

Ranney said the majority of their guests, including rollovers from 2020, are vaccinated.

They are operating on the honor system, asking those who are unvaccinated to mask up, and indoors at lodge facilities masking is still required for everyone, he said.