News & Politics

My Life in DC’s Coronavirus Era: Kurt Bardella 

A new feature about how people around Washington are adjusting to our new reality.

Kurt Bardella's home office. Photo courtesy Kurt Bardella.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

Washingtonian is keeping you up to date on the coronavirus around DC.

Kurt Bardella, a former Congressional spokesman, is a contributor to MSNBC’s Morning Joe and the creator and publisher of the country music industry publication Morning Hangover.

First, can you describe how concerned you are about coronavirus?

As someone who spends a lot of my time at widely attended events and gatherings, I take the coronavirus very seriously. Anytime you have something that is as widespread as this virus has become, it is not something you can casually dismiss.

When and how did you first became convinced that coronavirus was something that would require you to change up your daily routine?

It was during the first week of March when I saw President Trump downplaying the severity of the virus and suggesting he had some unique intuition for science that superseded the data. I realized it was going to get worse before it got better and I needed to focus my attention on limiting my exposure as much as possible.

Can you walk me through your current daily routine, taking care to note the specific ways that you’ve changed your routine as a precaution against coronavirus?

This has both daily and long-term impacts on my life and work. I was supposed to spend early April in Las Vegas for the Academy of Country Music Awards week and then travel to San Diego for a wedding. Now, neither of those things seems realistic. This week, I’ve stopped going to my gym, which I used to attend daily to play basketball. I’ve taken only one in-person meeting this week and none next week. I usually have 3-5 lunch or dinner meetings a week, this week I’ve had only one and next week I am not scheduling any. Anytime I have to go out into the world, as soon as I get home I shower, Lysol the soles of my shoes, and clean my phone with anti-bacterial wipes.

What do you like best about your new routine?

In some ways, the lack of social-in-person interaction is forcing me to be more productive and focus. There’s less distraction in my day. In three days, I was able to write and publish three columns. I think in general, just being more conscious about best practices for my own health is a good thing. In the past, it was more of a peripheral concern, now it is a top priority, something that is at the forefront of my mind throughout the day.

What do you miss most about your old routine?

I really miss playing basketball every day. For years, that has been my stress outlet and escape. We have a great group of guys that I’ve been playing with for almost 10 years now. It’s strange to have that hole in my day.

What advice would you give to someone else who is accustomed to working in an office but now has to work from home?

The tough part of working from home is that it is your home. It is a place of comfort and it is easy to want to just sit on your couch and binge-watch Netflix. The key is having a routine, even if you’re out of your place of work. Be diligent about time management. Build structure. For example, I separate my day into different segments, so 8-10 AM is time for me to read the news, 10-noon I try to tackle some writing projects, noon-1 is lunch, 1-3 is call-time, and 3-5 is tackling whatever miscellaneous things have popped up throughout the day that requires my attention.

Are there other work-related things that you’ve done—turning down TV appearances or speaking engagements, for instance—as a precaution against coronavirus?

I mentioned this earlier, but this has disrupted the country music side of my life. I try to go to one to two shows a week. Now I’m not going to any. I was planning on going to the ACM Awards in Vegas early next month; now I’m not going and there’s a good chance that show will be canceled or postponed. I generally go to NYC at least twice a month as part of my TV responsibilities; I’m not planning on going at all this month or next month.

Senior Writer

Luke Mullins is a senior writer at Washingtonian magazine focusing on the people and institutions that control the city’s levers of power. He has written about the Koch Brothers’ attempt to take over The Cato Institute, David Gregory’s ouster as moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press, the collapse of Washington’s Metro system, and the conflict that split apart the founders of Politico.