Friday's Saskatchewan COVID-19 case numbers illustrate the unpredictability of the province's pandemic curve.
Just a day before, on Thursday, health officials reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest daily bump in nearly a month and a half.
But the numbers surged on Friday, with the Ministry of Health reporting 295 new cases based on 3,652 tests — the highest single-day increase since 294 new cases were reported on April 15.
One new death was reported: a person their 70s from the southwest region.
Saskatoon leads in new cases
Saskatoon surpassed Regina as the region reporting the highest new daily crop of cases for the third time in the last week and a half. Saskatoon led all areas with 98 new cases Friday, with the Regina area coming in second with 68 new cases.
The rest of the new cases were found in the following regions: far northwest (two), far northeast (five), northwest (33), north central (17), northeast (nine), central west (one), central east (10), southwest (nine), south central (seven) and southeast (32).
Two regions, the central east and northeast, reported their first cases of the highly transmissible P1 variant.
Saskatchewan's seven-day average of daily new cases stands at 221, or 18.0 new cases per 100,000 people.
There are 174 infected people in hospital provincewide, including 38 people under intensive care.
Vaccine deliveries continue to happen at a strong pace, with 10,530 doses administered on Thursday.
Saskachewan is getting closer to its first threshold for beginning to relax or lift COVID-19 public health measures.
As of Friday, 69 per cent of residents aged 40 and above have received one dose of vaccine. That's just one percentage shy of the province's Step One reopening target of 70 per cent of people 40 and over receiving a single dose. However, three weeks need to elapse after that threshold is met and vaccine eligibility must be lowered to people aged 18 and over by that time for Step One to be initiated.
Currently, only residents in the general population aged 35 and over can book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.
On Friday, the province announced that age requirement will be lowered to 32 starting on Saturday.
In a scrum with reporters, Health Minister Paul Merriman was asked whether slower first-dose vaccine uptake among people in the 50-to-59 and 60-to-69 age brackets has him concerned about vaccine hesitancy.
As of Thursday, 65 per cent and 79 per cent of people in those age groups, respectively, had been inoculated once. One week earlier, on April 29, the percentages stood at 59 per cent and 76 per cent.
Meanwhile, despite being eligible for vaccination for a shorter period of time, 47 per cent of people aged 40 to 49 had received one dose by Thursday, up from 28 per cent the previous week.
"No, I don't think there's that much vaccine hesitancy out there," Merriman said. "I think some people were waiting and seeing and I respect that. But now that their neighbours or their family members have been vaccinated, we're seeing people in that higher age range that are coming in for the first time."