The Toronto Maple Leafs are seeking their first playoff series win in 17 years as they take on the Montreal Canadiens in Game 7 tonight at Scotiabank Arena—and 550 healthcare workers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are invited to attend.
In a press release, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he made the decision following discussions with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health, and hospital workers.
“This is well below the arena’s capacity,” Ford said in his press release. “With these health-care workers having received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks ago, and with precautionary measures in place like screening, masking, distancing, enhanced cleaning and crowd control, public health officials are confident we can put these special fans in the stands safely and with minimal risk.”
Ford added noted that Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment is covering the costs, and Scotiabank will offer the workers a free jersey at the game.
“Every single day our health care workers put their lives on the line to help others. This small token of appreciation doesn’t measure up to the sacrifices they’ve made during COVID-19, but it is an opportunity for us to recognize their heroic efforts to keep each and every one of us safe,” Ford said, adding that the more of us who get vaccinated, the faster we can return to doing the things we miss.
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) May 31, 2021
Social media response to the announcement was bittersweet for Ford — who has been heavily criticized for unpopular COVID-19 measures his government announced in April — with some claiming he should focus less on hockey and more on opening schools and the economy, and others worried about the safety of Scotiabank employees.
That’s great Doug but what about our kids struggling with not being in school and our small businesses that remain shut but it’s ok to go to a hockey game. We need our priorities straight in Ontario.
— D (@Smirnhoffa) May 31, 2021
Although Toronto Mayor John Tory was more than pleased with the announcement
“I want to thank Premier @FordNation and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for working quickly to find a way to recognize our frontline workers and safely bring fans back to cheer on our @MapleLeafs,” he tweeted.
Read my statement below. pic.twitter.com/NqDQaBkvqP
— John Tory (@JohnTory) May 31, 2021
The news comes as Ontario reported 916 new COVID-19 cases on Monday — the first time cases were lower than 1,000 in nearly 3 months
The case count includes 226 new cases in Toronto, 165 in Peel, 85 in York Region, 67 in Durham, and 52 in Hamilton.
Ontario’s COVID-19 death toll now sits at 8,757 after 13 more deaths were recorded in Monday’s numbers.
The province’s stay-at-home order will remain in place until Wednesday June 2, but, Ontario’s “roadmap to reopening” will be conducted in three steps, with the first step estimated to begin around June 14, permitting outdoor activities with limited well-managed crowding and restricted retail.
Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.