MONTREAL -- With the highly contagious Delta variant representing half of all new COVID-19 infections and the return to school just days away, public health officials in Montreal say new cases are projected to continue rising.

“So, today we had more than 200 cases, but with the school reopening we may have the same level we had in the second wave,” said Montreal’s public health director Dr. Mylène Drouin.

During a news conference Wednesday on the situation on the Island of Montreal, Dr. Drouin said the city is averaging 170 new cases per day and that COVID-19 infections are appearing in people with and without symptoms, including people who have received their two doses.

“More than half of our cases are associated with the Delta variant,” she said.

“If we compare to last year, we had those same indicators at the end of September. We haven't seen the effect of the opening of the schools and still we have high incidence rates so we expect, of course, a larger number of cases in the next couple of weeks.”

The incidence rate is higher among people aged 18 to 34, but also in the five to 17 age cohort as well.

Public health is monitoring 46 outbreaks in Montreal, 11 of which are associated with dancing activities, such as festivals and dance schools, she said.

“So we ask people that do those events to be more cautious, keep their distance, of course, wear mask if they're indoors,” she said, adding that changing dancing partners is discouraged.

This week, the ministry of education announced masks would be mandatory in classes for elementary and high school students starting in Grade 1 and higher in nine regions in Quebec, including Montreal. The preventative measure also applies to the Montérégie region as well as Centre-du-Quebec, Outaouais, Laval, The Eastern Townships, Lanaudiere, the Lower Laurentians, and Mauricie.

Drouin said she welcomes the new masking measures for schools, but for now public health will not be introducing any additional health measures that weren’t already in place last spring.

One initiative to help increase vaccination rates among school-aged Quebecers will be a promotion campaign in schools among eligible students and teachers throughout the region.

"Knowing that the Delta variant is more contagious, we are expecting to have a large number of cases so we'll have to adjust ourselves, of course, in the next couple of weeks in the measures put in place," Drouin said. 

As of Wednesday, 68 per cent of people aged 12 to 17 have received two doses of the vaccine, while 85 per cent have only received one dose. 

Of the new 550 cases reported in Quebec on Wednesday, 465 of them (or 85 per cent) were from people who are not fully vaccinated.