CONWAY — The numbers of COVID-19 tests being performed at Memorial Hospital are decreasing, and as a result the hospital is reducing its hours for testing.
COVID-19 testing at Memorial Hospital will still be available seven days a week, but the hours will be 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. as of April 26.
Hours currently are Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Memorial Chief Nursing Officer Kris Dascoulias noted that “appointments should still be readily available.”
The process to schedule a test has not changed. Appointments must still be made in advance by calling (603) 356-5472 whether you have symptoms or not.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency and/or need immediate attention, officials say you should come to the Memorial Hospital Emergency Department to be evaluated and required testing will be performed based on your symptoms.
For primary-care patients at Memorial, the hospital also has an acute care center for people who are ill and want to see a clinician in addition to being tested.
Hospital spokesman Tim Kershner said Thursday the lower number of people requesting tests should not be confused with a lower incidence of COVID-19 either in the area or in New Hampshire.
The number of people requesting tests has declined over the past several weeks even as more people tested positive for the coronavirus throughout March and early April.
Memorial Emergency Department Director Dr. Joseph Williams reported that at the end of Feburary, the hospital was averaging 80 tests per day; last week, the average was about 45 per day.
Kershner said one likely reason for the drop in demand is that Massachusetts residents are no longer required to be tested for the virus before returning home. Many out-of-staters used the hospital’s COVID testing services, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays, and there is less of that now, he said.
There are also other options for COVID-19 testing in the Mount Washington Valley, including Saco River Medical Group, Cranmore Health Partners and CVS pharmacy.
At the same time, state health officials announced that numbers of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state are starting to go down.
On Thursday, state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan announced 515 new COVID-19 cases. Noting that figure includes more than 100 new cases at the federal prison in Berlin, he said the state has been averaging about 350 cases per day over the past week, a decrease from two weeks ago.
There are currently 3,283 active cases of the coronavirus in the state but the testing positivity rate has declined, and is currently 4.5 percent. Hospitalizations, too, are down, with 112 people being hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide.
“It’s a trend we hope will continue,” he said, while noting that community spread of the virus continues to be high and adding that the state recommends people continue to wear masks, particularly indoors, avoid large crowds and practice other mitigation measures.
“The data has shown that vaccination in combination with community mitigation measures will help us to bring down the numbers more quickly,” he said.
Asked about Gov. Chris Sununu’s decision to drop the mask mandate, Chan said he and the governor, as well as other state public health officials, are in agreement that mask use should continue.
“There is more and more evidence that masks are effective,” he said.
But he added that public health is most successful when the community is engaged.
People should continue to wear masks, he said. “We still strongly encourage people to do so.”
Chan announced one new death due to the virus, bringing the total number of New Hampshire residents who have died from the disease to 1,274.
Carroll County has had 182 new cases over the past two weeks and currently has 104 active cases of COVID-19.
Memorial Hospital currently has no patients hospitalized with COVID-19 but has had such three patients at the hospital this week.
As of Wednesday evening, the hospital has given 12,565 shots, including to 5,613 people who are now fully vaccinated. The clinic, located at the former Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, continues to perform about 300 vaccinations per day.
On Monday, people from outside New Hampshire could begin receiving the vaccine, and Memorial Hospital data analyst Tracy Kanzler noted that as of Thursday afternoon, 44 patients, or about 4.5 percent of those seen at the clinic, were from out of state. That number included 23 Massachusetts residents and 17 Maine residents.
The hospital is also getting appointment reservations from people with Florida identification but none of those people has gotten their shots yet.
Dr. Beth Daly, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases and Control at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday 56 percent of eligible residents have now had at least one shot of vaccine.