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Rapid COVID-19 tests to be sold in New Hampshire liquor stores, governor says

By Kirk Enstrom

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    MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (WMUR) — Rapid at-home COVID-19 tests will soon be available in New Hampshire liquor stores, Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday.

Sununu said the state has secured 1 million rapid tests, and the Executive Council authorized their purchase Wednesday morning. He said that within the next two weeks, he expects the tests to be available at liquor stores.

The tests will purchased with federal pandemic relief dollars and will be sold at cost, which is about $13, Sununu said. The cost of the test can be reimbursed through health insurance, though the amount and process will vary from company to company.

New Hampshire has offered free tests before, and the federal government is offering four free at-home COVID-19 test kits. Sununu said he sees this plan as a way to supplement those efforts.

Some states have had difficulty getting their own supplies of at-home tests, and Sununu said it’s possible New Hampshire will run into similar problems.

“We heard from both Maryland and Virginia that some of their purchases of at-home tests had been pulled back by the federal government. They effectively took their tests,” Sununu said. “We’re making the same purchase. We’ve gotten some assurances from the provider, but you just never know.”

The state is also opening more fixed testing locations, with sites in Belmont and Lincoln now open, and a site in Keene opening next week.

New vaccination sites are also opening, Sununu said. Locations in Salem and Nashua recently opened, one in Manchester opens Friday, and a Keene location will open Monday.

The new testing and vaccination options come as New Hampshire remains in a COVID-19 surge fueled by the omicron variant. Sununu said it still appears as if omicron doesn’t cause severe illness as often as other variants, but it’s far more contagious and has been driving up hospitalization numbers.

“Hospitalizations are high and will continue to be high for a few weeks,” Sununu said.

Dr. Benjamin Chan, the state epidemiologist, said that even though the most recent reports from the Department of Health and Human Services have shown active cases declining, the state is working through an ongoing backlog, and a high number of cases are still being reported. He said he isn’t seeing signs of a big drop in cases yet.

“I think we’re still probably around 3,000 cases a day. That’s where we’ve been the last couple of weeks,” Chan said.

He said the increasing use of at-home tests, which are not necessarily reported to doctors or health officials, makes it even more difficult to determine how many cases are active. New Hampshire health officials are increasingly focusing on severe outcomes, such as hospitalizations and deaths, Chan said.

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