N.H. Sites Look to Expand COVID-19 Testing to Meet High Demand | New Hampshire Public Radio

N.H. Sites Look to Expand COVID-19 Testing to Meet High Demand

Nov 30, 2020

Credit Dan Tuohy / NHPR

As high demand for COVID-19 tests continues beyond the long holiday weekend, some sites are looking to expand their testing capacity. 

Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth usually tests 65 to 70 people per day, and has had a full schedule for the past two weeks.

Deb Thompson, the hospital's nurse director, said they're now hoping to increase that to 100 tests per day. While many people have been seeking routine tests, or coming in with common cold symptoms, many have symptoms linked to COVID-19.

"What we're finding is that we don't have enough spots to test all of the people in one day that are having symptoms, so we're having to send them to the pediatric office, or send them out to Mid-State health center, or book them out till the next day," Thompson said.

Speare aims to add hours for both PCR testing, and BinaxNOW rapid testing. To make that happen, Thompson said, they'll have to hire more staff.

Phil Alexakos, Chief Operations Officer at the Manchester Health Department, said the city has only been using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. Those take longer to process but are effective in people with or without symptoms. He said the department is starting to look toward using rapid antigen testing, as staffing and testing supplies are limited with the current testing process and high demand.