My Life In DC’s Coronavirus Era: Robert Allbritton

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

Politico and Protocol publisher Robert Allbritton's home office.

Robert Allbritton is the publisher and owner of Politico and Protocol.

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

Genuinely concerned. This outbreak is a crisis that impacts families, economies, and societies on a global scale. It has various elements of 9/11, 2008, a hurricane, and the world’s longest snowstorm all rolled into one.

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

When the virus spread to Italy and Iran, it became clear that this would not be like SARS – it would not be contained to China. The speed of its development surprised us all. The biggest problem here is a lack of facts and information: Nobody knows how widely it has already spread, so many are assuming a worst case scenario.

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

We are in the early stages of this, so thus far, not much has changed. But yesterday I asked all Politico employees to work from home except folks who absolutely had to be in the office, which for us is very few. But I anticipate a week from now will feel quite different. We are going to do our best to keep to a regular routine, with work and school at home. Fortunately we have friends who homeschool, and they have been a great source of information for us. It’s not impossible – it’s just different.

What do you like best about your new routine? 

Getting to spend more time with my family. My kids have adjusted well, but we are running out of blankets and sheets: They have made forts out of all the furniture.

What do you miss most about your old routine? 

We are in the early stages of this. But undoubtedly I’ll miss seeing my Politico colleagues at the office as we get further and further into it.

Given the current state of uncertainty, are there any items—canned goods or bottled water, for example—that you’ve been stocking up on as a precaution? 

Fortunately, we have access to our family farm, so we are not necessarily concerned about foodstuffs. We are not hoarding toilet paper either. Personally, I’m sticking to CDC guidelines and only consuming beverages that are at least 60% alcohol.

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

Stick to a routine. Get up on time. Shower. Shave. Go business casual. Create your workspace, and use it exclusively for your work. Schedule time for family and domestic activities. Giving friends and family regularity and reliability is the best gift in turbulent times.

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

All of our trips have been canceled, all outside activities have been canceled. The hardest part is we really do not know when this will end, or even what are the metrics to determine that it is over. I suspect everyone will re-evaluate in a few weeks as the outbreak evolves and once the cabin fever has fully set in.

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.

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