News & Politics

My Life in DC’s Coronavirus Era: Jim VandeHei 

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

Jim VandeHei's desk. Photograph courtesy Jim VandeHei.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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

Jim VandeHei is a co-founder and CEO of Axios.

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

Very. it seems clear this will be much worse than the vast majority of America suspected, soon stressing hospitals, often well beyond capacity, and grinding down the economy for months. Even the best case scenarios are awful for large swaths of people, especially the old, the poor, the sick.

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

I started washing hands thoroughly many weeks ago but only this week stopped traveling myself and strongly encouraged our staff to work from home.

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?

The biggest changes to my day are working out at home, instead of at SolidCore; avoiding large gatherings; washing hands constantly, and preparing our house for home work and schooling. I start most days at 4:30 AM or so and work late into the evening because it is my job to prepare Axios for the worst, while hoping for the best. We have an HBO show to produce, so I continue to work mostly from the office. I am working out now with my son at home, so that’s a pleasant change.

What do you like best about your new routine?

Nothing. This is a shitty situation for America and humanity. That said, it is a great chance for Axios staff to band together to make sure we emerge stronger, smarter and better positioned post-virus. I draw energy from watching good people do the right thing in crap situations. We talk a lot here about that when shit happens, shine. Lots of Axions shining.

What do you miss most about your old routine?

Everything. I am pro-normal-way-of-life kind of guy.

Have school closures affected your children yet? If so, how do you plan to manage child care?

They will be doing school via video chat for foreseeable future. We are blessed with child care help so that is not a big concern. We have nothing to whine about because lots of people do not have help or even the tech or opportunity for remote schooling.

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?

We got our hands on some toilet paper before the mad run.

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

This is a time to exploit technology to stay more connected than ever; we are headed toward leaner and meaner times so its imperative all of us find ways to be as or more effective at home as we are in the office. This is very doable.

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

Canceled trips; delayed speaking engagements; moved meetings to Zoom; limited lunches; picked up the phone and did business the old fashioned way.

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.