My video thanking Samaritan's Purse and with my thoughts on the coronavirus; A description and pictures from my day at the field hospital; The first patients arrived

By Whitney Tilson

Thursday, April 2, 2020
A A

To the nearly 40,000 people who receive my Empire Financial Daily,

As I write, it’s nearly midnight on Wednesday and I’m going back out to the hospital across the street in the morning, so I just don’t have time to write my usual thoughts on investing. Plus, I’m just too physically, mentally, and emotionally drained to put something together right now…

So instead, below is the e-mail I sent to more than 12,000 people on my various other e-mail lists (coronavirus, school reform, fitness/adventure sports, Africa, etc. To join any of these, send a blank e-mail to: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected], respectively).

I think you’ll really enjoy the video (which does touch on investing in the second half). It’s super raw… I’m ranting one moment and getting choked up the next. It’s like “Whitney Unchained” – LOL! Trust me, this doesn’t happen very often…

My friend wrote:

I’m ten seconds in and you’re already crying. I want this to go viral. And you’re officially a vlogger.

(I had to look up what a “vlogger” was. And they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…)

I hope you enjoy it!

Best regards,

Whitney


Usually when I have something on my mind, I grab my phone or rush to my computer to write it down before I forget it.

But tonight I did something I’ve never done before: I turned on my video camera and I just sat down and spilled my guts for 28 minutes.

You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1cMV1myHWA

In it, I thank my new brothers and sisters at Samaritan’s Purse, describe what I’ve been doing every day this week, address some controversy, rebut some nonsense, and share my thoughts on the coronavirus and why I’m optimistic that we’ll soon contain and then defeat this terrible scourge.

I’ve spent all day, every day for the past three and a half days (and I’ll be there again tomorrow morning!) helping Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian charity, build an emergency field hospital to handle the overflow of coronavirus patients from next-door Mt. Sinai Hospital. It’s literally in my back yard, directly across the street from my apartment building on the upper east side of Manhattan.

It’s been one of the most exhausting but rewarding experiences of my life.

It was very frustrating sitting in my apartment for the past couple of weeks, not doing anything tangible to help, as this horrific global pandemic raged around me (as of this afternoon, we had 45,707 cases (nearly 1% of the entire city), 9,775 hospitalizations, and 1,374 deaths in NYC). So I leapt when my friend e-mailed me on Sunday and invited me to join him across the street.

Since then, my fellow volunteers and I (including two of my daughters as well as a dozen friends) have been doing a wide range of things: erecting tents, carrying things, setting up barricades, hauling and raking mulch to make walkways through the wet grass and mud, nailing down tar paper, setting up portable heaters for each tent, and so forth. And we’ve been feeding everyone as well: my friend Charles at Lexington Pizza Parlor has sent over lunch for all of us every day, and I went to Costco this afternoon and brought back a carload (nearly $2,000 worth!) of snacks and drinks – see below for pictures of the car, packed to the gills!

All week everyone at Samaritan’s Purse has been thanking me, but that’s ridiculous – my fellow New Yorkers and I should be thanking them! I’ve been trying to do so, but everyone is very busy – the site has been a beehive of activity – so I made this video to express my feelings.

The work we volunteers have done is the least we can do to thank the nearly 100 people from Samaritan’s Purse who’ve come here from all over the country to help us in our time of desperate need. Nobody is paying them – they’re here because they believe they’re doing God’s work. And, while I’m not religious, I think they are!

Yes, we have our ideological and religious differences, but during this time of crisis when Samaritan’s Purse is treating seriously ill New Yorkers and, I am certain, saving lives, we need to set aside our differences and focus on the work at hand.

(Forgive me for getting emotional at a few points, but this is very personal for me…)

P.S. Here are my pictures and a description of what we did yesterday:

I started the day by setting up portable, gas-powered heaters, which had to be connected to each tent:

The hose kept falling off, so I used a drill to screw it on:

My friend Anna Nikolayevsky came over and we shoveled the rest of the mulch into my sled…

… and over about 20 trips filled in this area in the front, which had been all muddy:

Then we moved some plywood:

Things got very real at about 2 p.m., when an ambulance arrived with the first patient:

All non-medical folks had to clear the area (we couldn’t clear out of the restricted area fast enough!), while the Samaritan’s Purse medical team put on all of their personal protective equipment (PPE).

A few ambulances arrived over the course of the afternoon (the hospital has capacity for 68 critical care patients, which I expect will be reached in the next day or two):

At a break in the middle of the afternoon, I decided to go home for a few minutes to grab a drink – at which point, a half dozen of the guys asked me if I would get them cold Cokes, Diet Cokes and Gatorade, so I went to the local Korean grocer and picked up 30 colds drinks for everyone.

But that made me realize: other than some warm bottled water and the food that came for lunch, there was no food or drink anywhere – madness! People gotta eat!

So I had a brilliant idea: I grabbed Katharine and we drove to the nearby Costco. After we parked, we had to wait in line for nearly an hour (it’s not that it was crowded – rather, the store was limiting the number of people who could enter, to maintain social distancing):

When we got in, we went crazy, filling four large carts with every type of drink, salty snack, and candy:

People we giving us funny looks, like we were going to hide in a cave or something for a month (with the world’s worst diet!) – I had to explain that it was for a hospital… It took the woman at the register nearly half an hour just to check us out!

We barely fit everything into the car, stuffing things to the ceiling and under the seats – I literally had food at my feet and in my lap as Katharine drove us back to the hospital (she was a champ!)…

Here are all of our goodies in the storage tent, with the heroes on the Samaritan’s Purse team who helped us empty the car:

And here I am with Anna and another friend who came to help, Jennifer Kumble:

Here’s Dave with my buddy Nick Jekogian, who’d never done any carpentry prior to this week – but after three longs days is now a master!

Katharine and I will be back in the morning!

Best regards,

Whitney

Whitney Tilson

Get Whitney Tilson’s Daily delivered straight to your inbox.

About Whitney Tilson

Prior to creating Empire Financial Research, Whitney Tilson founded and ran Kase Capital Management, which managed three value-oriented hedge funds and two mutual funds. Starting out of his bedroom with only $1 million, Tilson grew assets under management to nearly $200 million.

Tilson graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a bachelor’s degree in government in 1989. After college, he helped Wendy Kopp launch Teach for America and then spent two years as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1994, where he graduated in the top 5% of his class and was named a Baker Scholar.

Click here for the full bio.