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My Life in DC’s Coronavirus Era: Daniel Lippman

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

Daniel Lippman’s home office. Photo courtesy of Daniel Lippman
Coronavirus 2020

About Coronavirus 2020

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

Daniel Lippman is a reporter at Politico, where he covers the White House and Washington.

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

I’ll be honest: I am increasingly concerned because this crisis seems to be getting worse by the day with no real end in sight. I am especially worried about my parents, older relatives, and far-flung friends and neighbors all over the country who are most at risk from this virus.

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

Once we started seeing cases in DC, it hit home that normal life would have to be upended in a real way, or else. Also: in late January, while researching an unrelated story, I learned that Steve Bannon’s radio show was switching from impeachment to coronavirus, and I remember pausing briefly to wonder whether he was actually on to something—but not pausing too long before getting on with my day.

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?

I wake up around 6 or 7 AM and read Politico’s morning stories and great newsletters and other articles from other major publications. After breakfast, I start following up on tips, helping colleagues, interviewing sources by phone, and writing stories that hopefully break through, including some articles about issues other than Covid-19. While I used to meet sources for coffee, lunch, or drinks, that is a thing of the past for now. While I used to often go to DC parties or other social events, now I just stay in and often watch a classic movie. I’m trying to catch up on the cultural education that I missed out on in my years as a single-minded politics and news nerd.

What do you like best about your new routine?

I don’t miss too much about commuting by car and the traffic that often ensues. I like that I have done more reading in the last week, including Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile and there’s no excuse now to not read The Plot Against America before you watch the show. One of the pandemic-appropriate movies that New York magazine recommended, the 1970s adaptation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, while totally camp in the best way, honestly had a really deep impact on my thinking about the value of being true to oneself in a group-thinky era. Staying at home is also a good excuse for me to improve my cooking skills while also supporting my favorite local restaurants like Convivial; they all could use our support now by ordering from them when you can.

What do you miss most about your old routine?

I miss seeing my great colleagues at Politico face-to-face and the camaraderie that a good office environment brings. It’s amazing how much productive thinking around the office arises from accidental social chatter.

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?

It’s very important that I hoard pet food as well as people food. So my pet rabbit Arthur has plenty of hay, pellets and his favorite lettuce, but he needs more. I also have a healthy supply of Guinness and my favorite Grafton cheddar for a midday snack of barebones Welsh rarebit, which is really easy to make on the broil setting of your standard oven. (Gotta save the leafy greens for the rabbit.)

What advice would you give to someone else who is accustomed to working in an office but now has to work from home? (Or if you’re not working from home, what advice would you give to others who have had to change up their work routines on account of the virus.)

Everyone is saying you need a designated space for work, but it’s never really been true for me because I’ve long found that I can work anywhere with Wi-Fi with roughly the same intensity and focus as anywhere else. One thing that I am intentionally keeping in mind now is the people that we’re accountable to (in my case, readers, editors and my fellow colleagues) are no less present now when you can’t see them. Social distancing and de-facto quarantining means in theory we’re all going through some version of the same thing in this collective crisis.

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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.