ITHACA, N.Y. — Kendal at Ithaca, the large-scale retirement community in Ithaca near the Triphammer Mall, has announced significant changes to its coronavirus policies after finding four positive cases among staff members and residents over the weekend.

Three of the people who tested positive were staff members, while one resident has tested positive. All of the four positives either work or reside in the facility’s “health center.” Kendal leadership said they expect more positive cases to come over the next several days, though they pointed to the rise in cases in Tompkins County overall as the primary culprit. Kendal has been posting daily updates to its website since the first positive test was found on Friday, Oct. 9. The additional three positive tests were discovered on Tuesday morning.

“They are not direct care staff and they work in different areas of the health center,” the facility announced on Facebook. “This tends to indicate that we are seeing evidence of community spread in the larger community, as is being reported, and it is likely we will see more positive results from the pending tests.”

An email was also sent out to Kendal residents, staff members and families Tuesday morning. The Tompkins County Health Department declined to comment on the cases. Kendal’s Director of Marketing and Admissions, Betsy Schermerhorn, said she could not disclose the condition of the resident or staff members, citing medical privacy.

As a result of the four cases, Kendal has closed the campus for all visitations and common areas have been closed for activities. Necessities like mail and meals are now being delivered directly to residents in an attempt to limit contact across the community.

In addition, all health center residents (around 80 total currently) are being tested Wednesday, and the announcement stated that guidelines for cohorting those residents are being implemented. Staff are still being tested twice per week, with mask-wearing and handwashing required.

“As this is a quickly evolving situation, we will communicate any significant updates as they are available,” the announcement concluded.

The news of the four positives comes after the center had previously installed new visitation guidelines back in August that called for pre-checks and appointments prior to visits with the caveat that any positive coronavirus test among staff or a resident would result in the termination of visitation until the facility goes 28 days without a positive test.

“I’m very proud of our community because we’ve been able to maintain a COVID-free status for so long,” Schermerhorn said. “We’ve been preparing since March, we’re in a very good position to respond. We’ve had drills, we’ve practiced things, and I’m really very proud of everybody and the response that they are mounting.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com