MONTREAL -- Quebecers may be enjoying a summer relatively free of COVID-19-related restrictions, but with numbers of daily cases creeping up and the virus' Delta variant becoming more prevalent, many are steeling for what could come next.

“What we've seen throughout each iteration of the variants is they tend to be more infectious,” said epidemiologist Christopher Labos. “That's how they end up becoming the dominant strain in whatever part of the world they arise in.”

In the United States, hot spots such as Florida have seen daily infections surpass previous highs, even after vaccines have been available for months and President Joe Biden has warned that restrictions could be on the horizon.

In Quebec, daily new cases have regularly surpassed 100 after hitting lows in the earlier parts of the summer. Doctors have urged the province to re-think its back-to-school plan to include a mask mandate.

As the province braces for a possible return of restrictions that were eased or done away with entirely months ago, some small business owners say they won't be able to survive.

“If we have to shut down again, I don't think we're going to make it through another year. It's going to be very tough,” said Jay Lucifero, general manager of Mile End's Club Social.

Labos said the number one way to protect against a Delta-driven fourth wave of COVID-19 is to convince Quebecers who have yet to get a vaccine to do so immediately.

“If you're not vaccinated, keep your distance from other people,” he said. “The problem with COVID is not just that it's infectious, but that a significant portion of the people who get it get seriously ill and end up in hospital.”