Monday, October 12, 2020

D.C.: "Super-Concierge Doctors, High-Design Home Classrooms, and Catered Backyard Dinners: Lifestyles of the Rich and Quarantined"

From Washingtonian:

This is what a luxe lockdown in Washington looks like. 

Dr. Brown said he would charter the plane himself. He was nervous—the patients wanted him at their summer home in St. Michaels to screen them for Covid immediately. But it was a Thursday in summer, and driving would take forever. Forget about taking the car.

Instead, Ernest Brown, owner of Doctors to You, a Washington-area concierge-medicine group whose house-yacht/private-jet calls start at $600 a pop, drove to Gaithersburg and hopped a puddle jumper to the airport in Easton. The patients, who needed to be screened in order to meet with another VIP, sent a car to meet him. All told, Brown was at their waterfront estate for ten minutes, max. Results: negative.

In certain worlds, this might seem ludicrously extravagant, perhaps somewhat sinful. But in Brown’s, it was just another day during the pandemic, a months-long blur of screening VIP clients, along with their nannies, drivers, valets, and chefs. Sometimes, the doctor will pop out of the falcon-wing doors on his Tesla Model X in a Georgetown alley or a Potomac garage for clandestine tests. “Some of these individuals work for government entities,” says Brown. “[They] don’t want to be tested so that it becomes more public or potentially public. Because, look, you’ve had the news reports on the people in the White House coming back positive, right? So people want to get around that.”

His clients also prefer the out-of-sight parts of their homes because Brown’s full biohazard gear might scare the neighbors. “It is glaringly obvious when somebody’s walking around looking like a Teletubby,” he says. On one August day, he began with a 7:30 am screening for a prominent DC chef, then an 8 am appointment at an embassy and a 9 am meeting in a Chevy Chase garage to swab the last stragglers of a Nantucket wedding party (he’d already screened the bride). After that, he rushed to Fairfax County to test two diplomats.

After 15 years in private-pay medicine, Brown is savvy to the perks his patients prize. While interruptions and long waits have plagued many local testing sites, his clients typically get results by 6 pm the same day. Standard health-care labs were too slow, so he worked his contacts and found a small Maryland biodefense lab with “the best testing capabilities.” Brown hand-delivers all of his samples, making sure they’re transferred safely and properly refrigerated. “I’m OCD about these things,” he says.

Another niche-facility bonus: the privacy. While Brown still has to release positive results to local authorities, he says his big-name patients’ big-name data is more secure in the smaller lab than in a commercial spot. “We have these clients that want absolute control, absolute privacy,” he says. “So we just get the job done.”

Brown’s testing will run you $275, not including the house-call charge, with more fees tacked on for weekends or holidays, or for special equipment like, you know, a chartered plane. Which, by the way—what did that cost? Brown guffaws: “I invoiced him.”

Covid-19 has wrought lasting, horrific damage on the country—pushing millions of people out of work and killing more than 200,000, a disproportionate number of them people of color. But if the disease has upended our society, there are some slivers of Washington where people can afford an extra measure of comfort (on the hush-hush, of course). The parties are still on (now the tasting menu comes to you), the kids are still in classrooms (they just might be newly installed, high-design “homerooms”), and getaways still happen (they just might involve a new yacht rather than airplane tickets).

Interior designer Josh Hildreth recently completed a backyard renovation for an Arlington family who didn’t want to give up entertaining—they put in an outdoor living room with seating for ten as well as a fire pit and a 66-inch TV for movie nights alfresco. The price tag: north of $400,000. Landscape architect Joseph Richardson has several million-dollar projects in the works, for a government contractor in Great Falls, a McLean athlete, and a Loudoun County executive. While the redos started pre-pandemic, the stay-at-home life has increased their scope: outdoor kitchens, pool houses and cabanas, new dog runs. Richardson recently installed a backyard putting green for a real-estate developer in Chevy Chase. A government contractor in McLean got a putting green and a bocce court, too.

“I don’t want to sound horrible, but I went to the beach for a week and we didn’t have anyone coming in and cleaning.”

One of Richardson’s other clients in McLean decided to go full-on MTV Cribs—new driveways, a pool and cabana, gardens, patios, an open-air kitchen—after visiting another McLean family’s home on July 4 to watch Hamilton in the backyard. “There’s always a component of keeping up with the Joneses,” says Richardson, who had designed that home’s outdoor spread—it’s just that the Joneses are newly face-masked.

Now, with school starting, the in-home classroom is a thing. Interior designer Tracy Morris is outfitting one for the elementary-school kids of a McLean family—they’re getting matching $1,265 desks, matching $569 lamps, matching $475 chairs, and a $2,250 sofa.

In the self-care department, she’s been working on home gyms—her clients often request the Woodway ($5,950) or the almighty but elusive Peloton Tread. (For a while, Peloton couldn’t deliver the $4,295 machine safely, which caused a bit of anxiety.) In homes in Georgetown and Great Falls, Morris installed stations for manicurists to do house calls, as well as portable hair-washing sinks so no one has to go out to get balayage....