Toronto took its best shot and came away a winner on Sunday, tallying what appeared to be a record-setting score in the fight against COVID-19.
Thousands attended Scotiabank Arena for the first time in more than a year and a half; they were not watching shots on goal but instead getting a shot in the arm.
The City of Toronto hoped to set an apparent record by vaccinating 25,000 Ontarians in a single day — and shortly after 8:30 p.m., officials announced that, indeed, the 25,000-dose mark had been reached.
By late afternoon the number of jabs reached 17,004, said to be the most vaccinations given in a single day at a single clinic in North America.
How is it possible to undertake such a massive initiative?
“Between Toronto Public Health, University Health Network and Michael Garron Hospital, they arrived at the strategies … they brought that idea to us and we were all in,” explained Nick Eaves, chief venues and operations officer for MLSE, adding officials worked around the clock in the event’s leadup and were “thrilled that it’s working out so far.”
Moving quickly, Ontarians lined the neighbouring streets leading to crowd-control barricades that weaved around the building and into Maple Leaf Square, Hundreds of volunteers waved the eager participants into the downtown Toronto arena for their Moderna or Pfizer vaccination.
“It took about 30 minutes,” said Marina Schwellnus. “It was pretty good because the line moved quickly.”
Once inside, a familiar-looking Raptors’ floor was transformed into numbered stations, where the vaccinations took place. Afterward, participants were sent to the stands to sit and wait out any possible reactions to the vaccine.
Not only did more Ontarians get their vaccination, but the city hoped to surpass the Texas Motor Speedway drive-thru clinic that administered 17,000 doses in April. Mission accomplished.
But as Jen was leaving the arena, with her souvenir vaccine towel in her hand, setting records was not on her mind.
“I am hoping for lots of hugs, lots of dinners inside and … yeah … and end to this,” she said.