ITHACA, N.Y.—Four staff members and one assisted living resident have tested positive for COVID-19 at Bridges Cornell Heights, an assisted living facility on Wyckoff Avenue in Ithaca.

The positive tests have been reported over the last 10 days, and visits were suspended for two weeks on Dec. 14 after post-Thanksgiving holiday testing showed two of the positive tests among staff members. According to Bridges ownership, the resident who tested positive has very mild symptoms, while most of the staff members are doing well also (with one exception, who is “struggling with symptoms” at home but has not been hospitalized).

The facility has been posting updates to its website, particularly after the number of cases among its residents and staff rose recently. Obviously, tensions are high surrounding nursing home COVID cases in Tompkins County as the outbreak continues at Oak Hill Manor nursing home that has claimed the lives of 11 residents there. Thus far, though, no resident has died as a result of the current spate of cases at Bridges.

“We know that the road ahead will not be easy, and a vaccine, no matter how promising and thrilling it is to imagine, will not bring us back to ‘normal’ any time soon,” the facility wrote in its latest update. “However, it will provide one more layer of protection against COVID-19 for the people we love who are at increased risk for severe illness. This is a hope filled and exciting moment as we wait for the call to set up the vaccine clinic – the minutes cannot move quickly enough for us.”

Bridges owner Elizabeth Classen Ambrose lamented that the facility had seen the jump in positive tests after months of avoiding the coronavirus pandemic penetrating campus.

“We’ve had really good luck for this entire marathon,” Classen Ambrose said. “And right as soon as we’re about to cross this finish line and get to the vaccine, we get tagged.”

There was one person in a separate rental property who passed away after having tested positive for COVID-19 more than a month ago, Classen Ambrose clarified, though that resident was in very poor health prior to contracting the virus.

Classen Ambrose said that, thanks to Cayuga Health System CEO Dr. Martin Stallone, the resident who tested positive is receiving therapeutic monoclonal antibody infusions, which they qualify for because of their age and relatively mild symptoms. Other residents have been treated with this same method at CMC, she said, and each has had beneficial results. The aforementioned resident who died while renting was on hospice care and thus ineligible to receive the antibody infusions, according to Classen Ambrose.

Vaccinations will likely start at Bridges Cornell Heights soon, as Classen Ambrose said they have been approved to be a COVID-19 vaccination site.

Matt Butler

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