TORONTO -- Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is pushing for her city to be placed in the red zone of the province's colour-coded framework for COVID-19 restrictions once the stay-at-home order is lifted.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Crombie said she is strongly advocating for Mississauga to skip the grey zone, the most restrictive category in the framework, and reopen in the red zone.

"You have a commitment from me that I will push for Mississauga into the red zone on March 9 unless we see a sudden increase in our numbers," Crombie said, adding that ideally, she would like to see Peel Region as a whole move to that zone.

"The decision will ultimately be made by the province as usual as it always is, and we should know where we are headed by next Friday."

Reopening in Peel Region, Toronto, and North Bay-Parry Sound was delayed after the province extended the stay-at-home order in the three regions until March 8. Medical officers of health asked the province for the extension so that they can observe the impact of students returning to in-class learning on rates of transmission and get a fuller understanding of the threat posed by COVID-19 variants.

"I realized how disappointing this was, particularly for our small businesses, who are anticipating reopening for in-person shopping," Crombie said.

"We know that the small businesses were never the main source of transmission. And you have sacrificed so much and I have been truly disappointed along with you."

Crombie's plea comes even though Peel Region's weekly incident rate per capita remains higher than Toronto's. Peel Region is currently averaging 88 cases per 100,000 compared with Toronto's 83.89 cases per 100,000. Mississauga, however, has a weekly incident rate of 73.2 cases per 100,000. For a region to enter the red zone, it must have a weekly incidence rate of 40 cases per 100,000 or more and a percent positivity of 2.5 or more.

The mayor remains hopeful that numbers will continue to decline in the days to come, allowing them to reopen in the red zone.

"I am so proud of what we have accomplished, and we can't risk what we have achieved. Let's continue doing the same thing that got us here, remaining vigilant so that our numbers continue to go down even further," Crombie said.

David Wojcik, the president and chief executive officer of the Mississauga Board of Trade, said he is pleased with Crombie's push to have the city reopen in the red zone.

"We are so happy in the business community to have the mayor push to have Mississauga treated separately from Peel Region," Wojcik said in an interview with CP24 Wednesday evening.

"We're not throwing our friends in Brampton under the bus, but the fact remains that our numbers here in Mississauga and Caledon had been way below the Peel Region numbers and way below the Brampton numbers."

To reopen in the red zone will give small businesses in the city a tremendous boost, Wojcik said.

He added that businesses are ready to reopen and will ensure that all public health protocols are being followed.

"It has been a tremendous financial burden on all of the businesses in Mississauga. Our restaurants are desperately needing to reopen. They are suffering financially," Wojcik said.

"I believe that our businesses will be very vigilant in helping patrons understand the importance of abiding by these rules because we all know what happens is that the premier and our own medical officer will return us to a restricted zone in a very short order."

When asked about the matter, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region's medical officer of health, said he does not have a specific position at this time.

"I would say I share the hope and optimism, but I am required by my mandate and my professional responsibilities to make sure that I'm monitoring the trends and then rendering an opinion at the point where we will be reassessing."

COVID-19 variants in Peel

There are now 60 confirmed cases of variants of concern in the region and 405 more that have been screened positive.

Loh said the decision to extend the stay-at-home order in Peel was the right move, especially given the dramatic rise of variant cases.

"I am hopeful that these two weeks will spare us perhaps months of agony down the road. This extension of the stay-at-home order gives us a shot at mitigating a resurgence or third wave and helps us to protect the lives of our most vulnerable and the well-being of our frontline health care providers and essential workers," Loh said.

Meanwhile, three more cases of the B.1.351 variant that originated in South Africa have been confirmed at a downtown Mississauga condo building after about 500 residents were tested for COVID-19.

It brings the total variant cases in the building to eight. Crombie said Peel Public Health was able to contain the cluster.

"I want to thank Dr. Loh and his team at public health for working quickly to get the situation under control and keeping all the condo residents safe as well as the larger community," Crombie said.