Some 550 health-care workers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be invited to attend Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens at Scotiabank Arena Monday evening.
In a news release, Premier Doug Ford said the decision was made in consultation with Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Toronto Public Health and hospital administrators.
“This is well below the arena’s capacity,” Ford said.
“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.”
The move marks a change in course for Ford and his government, who had said over the weekend that no fans would be able to go to Scotiabank Arena for tonight’s game. Officials in Quebec allowed about 2,500 masked fans to attend Game 6 in Montreal on Saturday.
Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment is covering the costs, Ford said, and the health-care workers who choose to go will get a free jersey at the game.
A spokesperson for the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto said that its hospitals would each hold random draws for eligible workers. Gillian Howard said UHN received 50 of the 550 tickets, and those who win the draws will receive their tickets via their cellphones.
“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.
“It also shows that the more of us who get vaccinated, the faster we can return to doing the things we miss.”
In a statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked Ford for allowing vaccinated health-care workers to attend the game.
“Our frontline heroes have helped us get through this pandemic and now they’ll be helping cheer on our Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens,” he said.
“I want to thank Premier Ford and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment for working quickly to find a way to recognize our frontline workers and safely bring fans back.”