More than 100 employees of a Canada Post facility in Mississauga, Ont. have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this month.
The Crown corporation confirmed Wednesday that there had been 121 cases at its Dixie Road location.
Public Health has confirmed that Canada Post is able to maintain its operations. Any employees who do test positive will leave the workplace and self-isolate,” Canada Post said in a statement.
According to the Crown corporation, more than 4,500 employees are working in mail processing, technical services, transportation, casual and administration at the facility.
Canada Post noted that Peel Public Health had also directed them to test one shift of employees at its Gateway East facility for the novel coronavirus. Testing began on Tuesday.
“There has been full compliance of workers with this directive. And the union supports this plan,” Qaiser Maroof, president of the Canada Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) Toronto Local 626.
He said 23 workers at the Gateway East facility tested positive for COVID-19.
“CPW continues to pressure Canada Post corporation to share the latest information with us, investigate and correct situations which could lead to workplace transmission and do so everything possible to assure the public safety and the health and safety of our workers at Canada Post,” he said.
“Peel Public Health investigates every COVID-19 positive case. If there is a potential workplace exposure, we work with the case to identify contacts and with the employer to ensure that they are doing what they can to prevent any future workplace exposure,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, the region’s medical officer of health, in a statement.
Loh added details of an investigation will only be disclosed if there is a risk to a broader public.
Outbreaks at workplaces show the need for paid sick leave for workers, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at a news conference on Wednesday. There had been 2014 workplace outbreaks since the pandemic, with 60 per cent reported in manufacturing, warehouse, and food processing.
“In total, over 1500 workers and people have contracted COVID-19 through a workplace outbreak. And we know that workplace outbreaks ultimately lead to more households and communities spread,” she said.
On Wednesday, the city council approved a motion by Crombie requesting the provincial and federal governments “fund necessary policies to provide adequate paid sick leave benefits.” A similar motion was passed in December.
“It’s simply unacceptable that we continue to ask our essential workers who are keeping our economy running to choose between going to work sick to keep food on the table or lose income while they self-isolate.
“I may sound like a broken record. But when it comes to this issue, I will keep saying it again and again. Paid sick leave needs to be part of our continued and shared response to this pandemic,” Crombie said.
Loh echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying paid sick leave will ensure that transmission spread does not happen at workplaces.
“Paid sick days can help workers stay home and self-isolate if they are sick,” he said.
“We certainly know that manufacturing distribution warehouses, these are high-risk sectors for us to see workplace outbreaks. And so certainly, this really drives home the message that we’ve been saying all along for our essential workers in our community. Ultimately, there is no lockdown or shut down and they are ultimately still out there, making sure that there’s packages delivered and food on the table.”
Crombie noted that cases in the region are plateauing, which she says is encouraging news.
However, she urged residents to continue following public health measures.
“I’m very hopeful that we are over the large spike in cases that we saw recently due to holiday shopping and holiday gatherings,” the mayor said.
“But this doesn’t mean for a second that we can get complacent. We have to remain vigilant. The reality is that our hospitals remain in a precarious situation.”
While Trillium Health Partners saw a decline in hospitalizations since last week, Crombie said patients continue to be transferred to other regions.
Loh believes next week is a critical turning point in the region’s fight against the virus.
“What we are seeing now shows the lingering impact of the holidays. And what we do now will decide what our cases will look like at the end of January and ultimately what our hospitals will be coping with through February,” he said.
More than 20,000 doses have been administered to health-care employees, essential workers and residents and staff of long-term care and retirement homes in Peel Region. With the Pfizer vaccine slowdown, that means preventing the further spread of the virus remains “in all our hands,” Loh said.
“All of this is needed to drive numbers down to see our community succeed into the summer and to keep COVID rates under control while we push our vaccine coverage up.”