At Woodside Hall, Not One COVID Case In Year

At Woodside Hall, Not One COVID Case In Year

The Rules Are Clear, Says Proprietor,
But They Must Be Enforced Every Day

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Woodside Hall proprietor Stephen Cadwalader, left, and Administrator Joel Plue discuss anti-COVID strategies in the bright drawing room. (Jim Kevlin/

‘When I was a child, a classmate was one of the last Americans to have polio,” said Woodside Hall proprietor Stephen Cadwalader. “What if COVID-19 is like polio? That’s what went through my mind.”

So here we are, a year since the coronavirus arrived – Governor Cuomo reported Tuesday was the anniversary of the first in-state COVID case – and not a single case has appeared at Woodside Hall, a nursing home in the imposing mansion at 1 Main St.

“I’m proud to say, we’re the only facility in the county not to test positive for COVID,” said Joel Plue, the home’s administrator since last September.

Asked to confirm that, county Public Health Director Heidi Bond concurred: The only one.

“We look at residents as an extension of our family,” said Plue, sitting in the bright drawing room across from the grand piano.

The home’s secret? It’s not so much a secret, it turns out, as rigorously applying generally accepted standards.

First, Plue continued, “we take care of our staff. If they arrive with even a sniffle, they’re sent home. They come back to work as soon as they test negative.”

Second, the home was shut down “two weeks ahead of the curve – we enacted a shutdown even before Governor Cuomo called for it.”

Three, continuous testing. “To this day, we’re still administering the Nares test every week.”

Added resident Jim Atwell (and columnist for this newspaper), who had entered the room and had been listening to Plue, “I’m proud of this place; I’m proud to be part of this.”

In his office across the hall, Cadwalader continued the litany:

Five, “we were driven by mask- and glove-wearing,” he said.

Six, for months, no non-employees entered the building. Packages were left on the front porch.

Seven, lately visitors are allowed in, but only two family members at a time, for a limited period. In the front hall, their temperatures are taken, and they answer what have become the standard questions.

Woodside Hall, state Sen. Stokes’s family mansion for decades, has been an adult home since 1965. (Jim Kevlin/

All of this is enhanced by good hygiene in general, said Cadwalader: “No hand-touching of membranes – eyes, nose, mouth.”

In the course of this visit, there was some knocking on wood. “After all,” said the proprietor, “it’s a disease: in many cases uncontrollable. We followed a very sensible middle-of-the-road consensus.”

And Plue credited what he called “a very collective effort. I’m very proud of the staff.”

Woodside Hall is one of Cooperstown’s most notable mansions, where President Martin Van Buren was hosted and toasted during an 1849 visit to the village.

For more than a century, it was owned by eminent local families, and finally was bequeathed by former state Sen. Walter W. Stokes to the Diocese of Albany on his death in 1960.

From 1965 to 2006, it was an adult rest home. Closed for two years, it was considered for a boutique hotel and other uses, until the Cadwaladers – Stephen, an art dealer in New York City, and his mother, Karen, a clinical social worker – reopened it as an adult retirement home.

Currently it has 17 residents, but it has a capacity for double that.

Woodside Hall’s strategy for the past year, it seems, is to do everything that’s recommended – but do it intensively, unstintingly.

Stephen summed up the approach: “In situations like this, rather than looking for a silver bullet, you’re looking at what not to do that’s stupid.”

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