LEWISTON — The Marshwood Center will get a COVID-19 rapid testing unit from the federal government to help deal with an outbreak.

The long-term care facility is one of three in the state to get the testers as part of an initial rollout. Other nursing homes are expected to get them in the future.

The rapid on-site tests are designed to allow facilities to test residents and staff less expensively and more quickly, with results that can be ready in hours rather than days. However, these will be antigen tests, which differ from the polymerise chain reaction, or PCR, tests that are most common now. Antigen tests are more often wrong, giving “significantly more false negatives,” according to Richard Feifer, chief medical officer for Genesis Healthcare, the Pennsylvania for-profit company that owns Marshwood at 36 Roger St.

“We have been talking about the emergence of antigen testing for months, but haven’t seen any significant activity or use of these tests,” he said in an email. “It remains possible, even likely, that we will need to still have PCR tests available to us, in addition to antigen tests, especially for negative antigen test results for symptomatic cases. For screening of asymptomatic residents, antigen testing may suffice if it is run more often, to make up for the lesser sensitivity.”

Still, he said, “We are thankful for (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) recent action to address the testing issues that the industry has been experiencing for months.”

Feifer said Marshwood is expected to receive its machine and some initial testing supplies in the coming days. Seal Rock Health Care in Saco and Coastal Manor in Yarmouth are also expected to get rapid testing units.

Marshwood has had 23 people test positive for the coronavirus, including eight staff members and 15 residents. Three of those residents have died.

Marshwood’s outbreak is believed to have led to an outbreak at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, where a Marshwood resident was being treated in the intensive care unit. Fourteen people at CMMC have tested positive. A new round of testing this week, including staff members from that ICU, turned up no new cases.

Marshwood Center at 33 Roger St. in Lewiston is getting a COVID-19 rapid testing unit from the federal government. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

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