FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For its trip to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the New England Patriots’ team plane now includes a message to those who may be hesitant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The team announced earlier this week that owner Robert Kraft had personally called and invited 76 health care workers, including four from Maine, to fly on the jet and attend Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.
The NFL is dedicating about 7,500 total tickets to health care workers. Total attendance for the game is expected to be about 25,000.
On Saturday, the Patriots posted photos to Twitter showing the new decal added to the plane to promote the COVID-19 vaccine. The decal reads, “When it’s your turn, take the shot. Get vaccinated.”
"It's an honor for us to celebrate these healthcare workers by giving them a well-deserved break for a day and an opportunity to enjoy the Super Bowl, a reality that is only made possible because of the vaccines,” Kraft said in a statement. “We hope that in doing so, others are also encouraged to get vaccinated as they are able."
The all-expenses-paid trip includes:
- One ticket to the game
- A police escort from Gillette Stadium to Logan Airport
- An exclusive ticket to the NFL TikTok Tailgate concert headlined by Miley Cyrus
- A two-night complimentary hotel stay
- A Patriots gift bag
- A $100 VISA gift card to spend at Raymond James Stadium
- Ground transportation in Tampa
The Kraft family offered four tickets to each of the governors outside of Massachusetts, including Governor Mills, who then selected health care superheroes from their respective states, for a total of 20 individuals representing Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. After soliciting applications for frontline health care heroes through the Maine Health Care Association and the Maine Hospital Association, Governor Mills randomly drew names to select Maine’s four winners. They are:
- Joe Looper, Emergency Department Nurse at Mercy Hospital: Joe Looper serves as a Certified Emergency Nurse at Mercy Hospital where he has been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for Maine people. He has also obtained his Trauma Nurse certification and is a Basic Life Support instructor through the American Red Cross. In addition to caring for emergency room patients, he is also a member of the Maine National Guard, has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has been awarded the Army Achievement Medal twice, the State Safety Award, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Medical Badge, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Award.
- Cathy Bean, Manager of Clinical and Community Health Services Northern Light Home Care & Hospice: Cathy Bean, who was recently honored by the Home Care & Hospice Alliance of Maine with its Distinguished Service Award, has been on the frontlines, helping to take care of Maine’s most vulnerable and underserved. For more than a decade, she has been the leader in coordinating the influenza vaccination efforts in schools, businesses, homeless shelters and migrant communities. When the pandemic took hold, she used her experience to design and stand up COVID-19 testing sites and to develop a daily COVID screening process for those residing at multiple homeless shelters and quarantine locations. She is also putting that experience to use now developing COVID-19 vaccination sites. She also serves as the Chair of the Cumberland District Public Health Council where she is integral in fighting inequity to create equal access to health care across the county and state.
- Lisa Ireland, Registered Nurse at RiverRidge Center: Lisa Ireland is a registered nurse at RiverRidge Center where she has been on the frontlines throughout the pandemic. She often works every day of the week, across multiple shifts, performing hundreds of COVID-19 tests on other frontline staff and patients. She also serves as the infection prevention and control leader for RiverRidge.
- Patrick Keaney, Pulmonary Physician at Mid Coast Hospital: Dr. Patrick Keaney is a pulmonary physician at Mid Coast Hospital where he has been key to the organization’s COVID-19 preparation and response efforts. As the pandemic took hold, Dr. Keaney took on the dual role of caring for all COVID-19-positive patients at Mid Coast Hospital during the first several weeks of the pandemic while also serving tirelessly as one of the hospital’s sources of information about the disease. For six straight weeks without a break, he arrived each morning to care for ill patients, share the latest information on treatment options, and offer words of encouragement to those around him.
“I am grateful to the Kraft family for providing this special gift to our frontline COVID health care workers as a measure of our enduring gratitude,” said Governor Janet Mills in a statement. “I ask all Maine people to join me in thanking all of our health care workers who have heeded the call of duty and worked long hours, days, and weeks, often at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, to protect Maine people during this extraordinary crisis.
The mission of this trip is two-fold: to recognize and thank a representative group of the countless health care superheroes in New England and to celebrate and spread the important message of getting vaccinated.
Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots play their home games, became Massachusetts' first mass vaccination site in January.