'These people are extraordinary': Toronto salutes health-care workers on the front lines of COVID-19 fight
'We owe them a huge amount, with more to come,' Mayor John Tory says
There was hardly a dry eye on University Avenue as Mayor John Tory, Police Chief Mark Saunders and Fire Chief Mattew Pegg led a motorized parade down Toronto's Hospital Row to salute health-care workers who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.
At 7:45 p.m., the convoy of vehicles made its way south along University Avenue with lights flashing, horns and sirens blaring.
Scores of health-care workers, many wearing their scrubs, lined the sidewalks to accept the salute.
"These people are extraordinary," Tory said, after he exited his vehicle and gave a thumbs up and a salute to the health-care workers.
"They're putting themselves at risk to look after people … so, I think it's very moving for them and rightly so. We owe them a huge amount, with more to come."
It was a coordinated "Night to Salute Hospitals Across the City" organized by the Toronto Police Service.
In addition to the parade along University Avenue, officers also drove to long-term care homes in their divisions to conduct a drive-by salute to the workers and staff members.
Drive-by events were also held at the following hospitals:
North York General Hospital, 4001 Leslie Street.
Sunnybrook Hospital, 2075 Bayview Avenue.
Centenary Hospital, 2867 Ellesmere Road.
St. Michael's Hospital, 30 Bond Street.
Toronto Grace Hospital, 650 Church Street.
St. Joseph's Hospital, 30 The Queensway.
Scarborough General Hospital, 3050 Lawrence Avenue East.
Michael Garron Hospital, 825 Coxwell Avenue.
Humber River Hosptial, 1235 Wilson Avenue.
Scarborough Grace Hos[pital, 3030 Birchmount Road.
Etobicoke General Hospital, 101 Humber College Boulevard.
Toronto Western Hospital, 399 Bathurst Street.
"The Toronto Police Service recognizes the dedication of our city's health-care workers and will acknowledge their commitment to our community during this global pandemic. The show of appreciation will happen at the same time at hospitals across Toronto," police said in a news release..
The Toronto Fire Services, Toronto Paramedic Services, Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx, Toronto Community Housing Corp. were among those participating in the event.
'Thank you for your courage'
Tory said the message being sent to health-care workers is that all of Toronto is grateful for the work they are doing.
"Thank you for your courage, thank you for your professionalism, thank you for your dedication," he said.
"Hang in there because it's not over yet. [We] still have a long way to go and I think that's part of the reason why it's emotional for them, because they know this is not a celebration of the end for them. This is us part way through … saying thank you."
'I couldn't be prouder'
Pegg, who is leading Toronto's emergency response to COVID-19, fought to hold back tears as he spoke about the significance of the salute.
"Chokes me up. This is the front line right here," he said.
"It's been a lot of hard weeks and a lot of hard days and we've got a long road ahead of us but this is a little bit of good.
"It makes us realize how many people this impacts. It takes a multitude of people to get us all through this and I couldn't be prouder."
Physical distancing challenge
There was one moment during the event when things got a little bit awkward.
Tory joined a group of health-care workers for a group photo but soon realized the stipulated distancing was not being observed when they gathered behind him for the picture.
He used his hands to motion to them that they should stand back, acknowledging the lapse in judgment.
"I hope this gives people a sense of hope that if we stick to the rules, do what we're told … just keep at it and stay the course [we will get through this]," Tory said.
As of Sunday afternoon, Toronto has a total of 3,546 cases of COVID-19.
In a news release, the city said the total includes 3,212 confirmed cases and 334 probable ones.
The city added that 173 people have died of the virus in Toronto, while 241 people are in hospital and 95 of those in intensive care units.
A total of 184 people have recovered.
With files from Desmond Brown