Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is renewing her call for enhanced paid sick leave after a study by Peel Public Health revealed people are choosing to go to work sick.

At a news conference Wednesday, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie revealed Peel Public Health conducted a study of 7,784 people with symptoms that could be associated with COVID-19 between August 2020 to January 2021. The study found that 25 per cent of those individuals or 2,000 people reported to their jobs.

Eighty of those individuals still went into their work after testing positive for COVID-19. Crombie said the data is troubling.

"If people are forced to choose between losing a paycheck and putting food on the table, they're going to choose the paycheck," Crombie said.

"The province and the federal government have taken unprecedented actions to limit the spread of the COVID-19. But there has been no movement on paid sick leave."

Crombie said the lack of paid sick leave is a glaring gap in the ongoing COVID-19 response. She noted that the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit is insufficient.

On Wednesday, Ontario's Minister of Labour Monte McNaughton sent an open letter to the federal government calling for changes to be made to a federal sick leave program.

"A new system needs to be in place so that workers can make the right choice and stay home without losing their wages. We cannot wait for this any longer," Crombie said.

"It will save lives and help bring the virus under control sooner is one of the best investments we can make to help us reopen and begin the long-term economic recovery of the GTA and the entire country."

There have been 218 workplace outbreaks in Peel Region since the beginning of the pandemic, which Crombie said highlights the need for guarantee paid sick leave for the duration of the pandemic.

One of those outbreaks has been reported at a Canada Post facility on Dixie Road, where 250 workers have contracted the virus. On Wednesday, Canada Post confirmed an employee who was diagnosed with COVID-19 had died.

Dr. Lawrence Loh echoed Crombie's sentiments and said more needs to be done for essential workers.

"Paid sick days, more workplace rapid testing, more workplace inspections and more protections for temporary and contract workers," he said.

"All of this towards a simple goal: get COVID down and tame the wave so that when the vaccines come, we can drive coverage up and turn this story around."

COVID numbers trending down

While Crombie said the decline in COVID-19 numbers is promising and encouraging, she is concerned about the arrival of the United Kingdom COVID-19 variant, which has been found to be more transmissible.

"We cannot let our guards down for even a second," she said.

We have to do everything we can to prevent that from happening here in Mississauga. That means continuing to listen to the provincial stay-at-home order and leaving home for only the essentials or for exercise."

Although the situation at hospitals in the region has improved, Crombie said it is still very serious as there still a steady stream of incoming COVID-19 patients.

"I'm very hopeful that our cases will continue to steadily decline over the coming weeks. And we can begin making the case for safer reopenings and most importantly, for our schools and for our small businesses."

Loh said the region is at a pivotal point in its fight against COVID-19, given the appearance of contagious coronavirus variants.

"And while trends are cautiously optimistic, the detection of the UK variant in Ontario and other variants in Canada could easily erase the progress that we have made spreading more quickly," he said.

"We must do whatever we can to stop them from getting into vulnerable settings, like our long-term care homes, our schools and workplaces."