My Life in DC’s Coronavirus Era: Dave Jorgenson

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

Photograph of Dave Jorgenson's home "studio" courtesy Dave Jorgenson.
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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

Dave Jorgenson is the Washington Post‘s “TikTok guy” and a video producer there.

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

I’m concerned on a few levels. On the one hand, I’m worried about people who still aren’t taking it seriously. For example, this TikTok does a great job of explaining how completely unconcerned people in North Carolina seem to be. It’s well told and funny, but at a certain point you wonder when they will start to realize how much harm they’re causing to fellow Americans.

I also worry about small businesses. They just let go 180 of 200 employees at Compass Coffee. This is my daily spot normally, and I feel awful about the circumstances of the amazing baristas that worked in the Post building (and even appeared in some of our TikToks!).

Finally, I have several siblings and in-laws who work in education. There are so many kids of every age who rely on meals at school. The solution in some cases has been to keep providing those meals, but that’s not the case everywhere. That’s pretty heartbreaking.

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

Immediately, and I fully embraced it. Coronavirus makes everyone anxious, and I am very lucky and privileged to have a secure job and good health. I’ve been able to focus all of my creative energy into one task: making two quarantine-themed TikToks every day. The lack of distractions and meetings has been amazing for me.

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 change in my routine is having to film everything myself. I brought home a regular-sized light stand from work and attached a small iPhone stand. I could not stop laughing when I first put that together.

I try to shoot, edit, and publish one quarantine-focused TikTok around noon. That’s the same as my normal work schedule, except now I’m moving furniture around, attempting to not appear in the background of my wife, Mariana’s conference calls and constantly adjusting the studio lights in our apartment. Basically, if anyone were to look into our small one-bedroom apartment from outside, they would see an insane person dancing around, talking to a can of Spam and furiously editing that footage at his computer. Typically, only my colleagues experience that.

What do you like best about your new routine?

In this current state, I have the ability to focus on a singular task: help get people through quarantine with funny and informative TikToks produced from my apartment. I’ve also been able to cook lunch and dinner every day (I made gluten-free chocolate chip cookies from scratch yesterday).

What do you miss most about your old routine?

I miss my team—the creative video team. I’d like to think they miss me or miss making fun of me. They definitely miss making fun of me.

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

I don’t have kids yet, but I am one in a way, and I’m doing fine.

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 bought a ton of toilet paper, but mostly because I want to turn that into a TikTok where toilet paper becomes a future currency. There was no chicken at Costco, so I bought an ungodly amount of steak. I joked about buying a whole pig (they really have those), but I was quickly persuaded otherwise. Also, I bought a Nintendo Switch because my coworker Sam loves to game.

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

If you’re fortunate enough to still have a job and be working from home, make the most of it. I’m easily entertained by most things, so perhaps this advice won’t mean much, but there is so much you can do in this time. Start to learn a language. Call people you haven’t spoken to in years. Get really into a new at-home workout (I’ve welcomed Insanity back into my living room). I plan to use this time to improve myself.

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

I was supposed to go to Miami, Germany, Wisconsin, SXSW, Kansas City and a few other trips all in the next month. At first, this really, really got me down. But when it happened to everyone, I felt like, “well, at least I won’t have FOMO.” But the most important thing is for everyone to stay safe and informed.

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.