Petersburg Medical Center includes a clinic, hospital, emergency room, and long term care. (Photo/KFSK)

Two rapid testing machines for Covid-19 arrived in Petersburg Monday. The machines won’t detect the virus as well as sending the samples out of town but it will help local health providers find positive results quickly. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

The high speed machines should turn around test results in less than an hour.

We’re very excited to be able to offer this in Petersburg,” said Liz Bacom, Infection Prevention Manager at the Petersburg Medical Center. “I think it will make a difference in how patients are managed.”

The machines were tested in the local lab first and Bacom says they should be able to start using them on Wednesday. She says positive test results come back a lot quicker than negatives.

“If it’s truly a positive it’ll pop up pretty quick, like within five or ten minutes, but it won’t release a negative result for a little bit longer because it has to make sure that it has had the opportunity to allow the virus to replicate so that they can detect it,” Bacom said.

The machines aren’t foolproof. They don’t detect the virus as well as the equipment in the state laboratories. While the state’s lab can pick up the virus when people don’t have symptoms, the rapid testing machines are not as sensitive.

“So if people are not symptomatic or if they’re very early in their infection and their symptoms are not as apparent then they may test negative on our equipment,” Bacom said.

That’s why all Petersburg samples will still be sent out to the state lab anyway no matter the outcome of the rapid tests. Bacom says the state wants to study all the positive results and they want to double check the negatives.

We don’t want to report out a negative and find out later that they should’ve been reported as positive,” she said. “We’re going to be very conservative on how that gets rolled out.”

As of Tuesday, 87 people had been screened in Petersburg for Covid-19: 79 tests were negative, one is positive, one is recovered, and six are still pending.

A few weeks ago, Petersburg patients were waiting up to 10 days to get test results back from commercial laboratories in the Lower 48. State labs were taking several days. Bacom says they are sending nearly all their tests to the state now and the turn-around time is down to two to three days.