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In Louisiana, which has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, one judge is offering defendants the opportunity to forgo their community service hours if they get vaccinated.
Judge Fred Crifasi, of the 19th Judicial District Court in East Baton Rouge, started proposing the trade-off this week, the Washington Post reported, as Louisiana became the state with the most per capita cases in the country.
Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 cases have jumped by 256% in Louisiana and the state is averaging around 3,500 new infections a day, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, just 37% of residents are fully vaccinated against the virus, the fifth-lowest number in the country.
"Getting vaccinated is a service to the community," Crifasi said in a statement. "So, if a probation candidate is inclined to get vaccinated, I will grant credit for that effort toward any requirement of community service. The amount of hours varies and depends on the person's circumstances."
Ashley Greenhouse, an attorney in Baton Rogue, said one of her clients with four hours left of community service took the deal.
"[Crifasi] said if my client returned and showed proof he had been vaccinated he would receive credit for his community service hours," she told the Post. "He was very clear that this was just an alternative."
Crifasi's offer to swap community service hours for vaccinations is one of the many ways that the public sector is trying to encourage inoculations as the delta variant causes a major surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. States have run million-dollar lotteries and offered $100 gift cards and free trucks.
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But there's still large swaths of the country that refuse or have delayed getting vaccinated, putting them at severe risk of serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19 and slowing the nation's recovery from the pandemic. With the delta variant now the dominant strain in the U.S., cases and hospitalizations are sharply up, and the majority of hospitalized patients — 97% — are unvaccinated.
Greenhouse said that she thinks this incentive is a smart way of helping the community.
"Community service is about being a good neighbor," she said. "And getting a vaccine this season, I can't think of a better way to be a good neighbor."