New, free COVID-19 testing sites to open

Gov. Chris Sununu speaks about hiring a vendor to open COVID-19 test sites to help with delays in obtaining rapid antigen tests.

CONCORD — The state soon will offer free COVID-19 testing in Manchester, Nashua, Claremont and Newington to deal with a chronic shortage of rapid tests for COVID-19, state officials said Thursday.

ClearChoice MD of New London won an $8.8 million contract to conduct these tests. which should help cut down on the delays many parents have been facing trying to get schoolchildren tested, Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said.

The Executive Council unanimously endorsed the retroactive no-bid contract at its meeting Wednesday.

ClearChoice, which operates a network of urgent care centers in the state, was the only company with the staff and resources to immediately set up these testing sites, she said.

The Manchester and Claremont test sites will be in place later this week, and the Nashua and Newington programs will open next week, Shibinette said.

State officials did not have information about the sites’ exact location, urging the public to check the company’s website.

Each location will conduct at least 150 tests a day, and be open a minimum of six hours seven days a week.

Under this contract, all results must be completed within 48 hours.

Shibinette said ClearChoice will be shipping the results to be analyzed by NorDx Laboratories of Maine, which currently has a 24-hour turnaround.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the national shortage of rapid antigen tests for the virus has forced states to “get creative” to help families of school children and employees needing COVID-19 testing.

“This is a big step forward for us,” Sununu said.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said that in the past week the state’s COVID positivity rate has risen above the 5% under-control benchmark for the first time in months.

It’s now at 6%, Chan said.

Hospitalizations remain “high but stable,” while the average number of new positive cases daily has been roughly 500, he said.

Sununu said the state’s rate of fatality from COVID-19 is the third-lowest in the country, with the hospitalization rate the fifth-lowest.

“We follow data, we follow science and we do it the New Hampshire way every time,” Sununu said.