Block Buddies, Helpers, Shopping Safety, More


Friday March 27, 4:45 PM

  Block Buddies

  Columbia Helpers

  92 Confirmed Cases

  Bellingham Post Office Open

Neighborhood Specifics

  Visit From A Chicken (Already Home)

  In Search Of Pedal Bike

Fl!p’s Pix For Music

  Robert Sarazin Blake:From The Kitchen Table

  John Miller Guitar Instruction

Lots of Shopping Safety Info

  The Short Form: Infectious Virus Only For 72 Hours On Objects

  Don’t Panic About Deliveries (Wa Post Article)

  Keeping Things Really Clean

  Decontamination: From A Scientist


If we take the long view, centuries long, pandemics are actually normal. They have happened many, many times before. And this time, we know more and have more tools for dealing with it: Healthcare workers giving everything they’ve got to save as many people as possible; Dedicated scientists all over the planet helping us understand the virus, and researching treatments and vaccines; The internet that connects so many of us as we stay home to protect one another. There is one thing that is different in a less helpful way, at least in cities in the USA. We don’t know our neighbors as well as our parents and grandparents knew theirs. Or as well as folks in small towns know their neighbors even now. Neighbors can make a huge difference in how well we get through this next period, from waving out the window to calling for aid if we can’t do it for ourselves. Please begin trading contact information with your next-door neighbors. Try to get a list for your whole block. Anybody who agrees to be on the list gets a copy of the list. And, please, let me know if you’re doing it, and how I can assist you. This is the single thing that I most want to have happen in this next period.


If you have joined the Columbia Helpers Facebook page – or feel free to do so now: , please check it  a couple of times a day to see if there is a Neighbor in Need. If you see a post from someone saying they need help and you are able to help, please jump in and help. You can message that person directly or leave a comment under the person’s request. Here is a hotline number people can call if they are not on Facebook: 360-778-2762 and follow instructions to leave a voicemail. Someone will get back to you.

Thank you for helping out! We’ll get through this together!

Colleen and Erin, your Columbia Neighborhood Co-Captains


Whatcom County now has a total of 92 cases, including four deaths.


The Postal Service is classified as an essential government service, and will remain open wherever possible.

 315 Prospect St, Bellingham, WA 98225


Just left the post office in prospect. Still normal hours and services. ~ Ryan Johnson 



[The owner has already been found, but I couldn’t resist sharing the headline!]

Barred rock chicken. Corner of Park and Jefferson hanging out with my chickens.

  Amber Hixson

  Park Street


My daughter is turning 4 next month. My hope is to get her her first pedal bike. I wanted to check to see if any family in the neighborhood has one they have outgrown that they would be willing to sell me. Size 14″ or 16″ wheels. 

*Also open to receiving tips on how to have a successful quarantine celebration. 

  Helen Hollister

  Williams Street



Sunday March 29th, 4-6pm

 LIVE STEAM http:///


All Viewers Welcome: Digital Tip Jar


Venmo: @RobertSarazinBlake

A weekly broacast concert and song swap

from our kitchen table to yours.

‘Lets sit around the table together’

March 29th Guest: (BBC Award Winning!) Jefferson Hamer


I have fifty years experience as a guitar instructor, teaching privately and offering classes at music camps. I teach Folk, Old-Time, Country Blues fingerpicking, Jazz, Brazilian guitar, chord theory and voicing, and composition. I’ve written five books and have 18 instructional videos released by Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop.  I have already done a lot of on-line teaching and am comfortable doing that using Mac FaceTime or Zoom.  Interested parties can check out my website at or contact me at 

[I can’t print this without giving a shout-out. John is an internationally recognized guitar teacher and player. I stand in awe of this man’s musicianship, breadth of knowledge, and scholarship in a wide range of musical styles. He is a musical sage. And he lives here in town! ~Fl!p]




CDC clarifies that live, infectious virus was NOT found 17 days later on the Princess ship. Virus survives on surfaces only up to 72 hours, and only 24 on cardboard. I currently have a front entry “parking lot” for pretty much everything but milk and ice cream. I don’t stack anything but one day’s mail. Much easier than cleaning everything to just wait 3 days. Wash your produce like you wash your hands.


I asked my cousin Alex Breskin, who is an epidemiologist, about this article from the Washington Post, before sharing it. He says wash your hands anyway, but he’s not too concerned in this regard, because the virus decays pretty quickly. It has a “half-life.” (You don’t have to have a subscription to view this article about it. At least one friend was having difficulty, so I have copied and pasted the article here, right after the link:

By Joseph G. Allen 

March 26, 2020 at 5:10 a.m. PDT


The Washington Post is providing this story for free so that all readers have access to this important information about the coronavirus. For more free stories, sign up for our daily Coronavirus Updates newsletter.

Joseph G. Allen is an assistant professor of exposure and assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine is making people think twice about how they might be exposed to covid-19 if they open a box delivered by UPS, touch packages at the grocery store or accept food delivery.

The risk is low. Let me explain.

First, disease transmission from inanimate surfaces is real, so I don’t want to minimize that. It’s something we have known for a long time; as early as the 1500s, infected surfaces were thought of as “seeds of disease,” able to transfer disease from one person to another.

In that new NEJM study, here’s the finding that is grabbing headlines: The coronavirus that causes covid-19 “was detectable . . . up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”

The key word here is “detectable.”

Yes, the virus can be detected on some surfaces for up to a day, but the reality is that the levels drop off quickly. For example, the article shows that the virus’s half-life on stainless steel and plastic was 5.6 hours and 6.8 hours, respectively. (Half-life is how long it takes the viral concentration to decrease by half, then half of that half, and so on until it’s gone.)

Now, let’s examine the full causal chain that would have to exist for you to get sick from a contaminated Amazon package at your door or a gallon of milk from the grocery store.

In the case of the Amazon package, the driver would have to be infected and still working despite limited symptoms. (If they were very ill, they would most likely be home; if they had no symptoms, it’s unlikely they would be coughing or sneezing frequently.) Let’s say they wipe their nose, don’t wash their hands and then transfer some virus to your package.

Even then, there would be a time lag from when they transferred the virus until you picked up the package at your door, with the virus degrading all the while. In the worst-case scenario, a visibly sick driver picks up your package from the truck, walks to your front door and sneezes into their hands or directly on the package immediately before handing it to you.

Even in that highly unlikely scenario, you can break this causal chain.

In the epidemiological world, we have a helpful way to think about it: the “Sufficient-Component Cause model.” Think of this model as pieces of a pie. For disease to happen, all of the pieces of the pie have to be there: sick driver, sneezing/coughing, viral particles transferred to the package, a very short time lapse before delivery, you touching the exact same spot on the package as the sneeze, you then touching your face or mouth before hand-washing.

In this model, the virus on the package is a necessary component, but it alone is not sufficient to get you sick. Many other pieces of the pie would have to be in place.

So this is what you can do to disassemble the pie — to cut the chain.

You can leave that cardboard package at your door for a few hours — or bring it inside and leave it right inside your door, then wash your hands again. If you’re still concerned there was any virus on the package, you could wipe down the exterior with a disinfectant, or open it outdoors and put the packaging in the recycling can. (Then wash your hands again.)

What about going to the grocery store? The same approach applies.

Shop when you need to (keeping six feet from other customers) and load items into your cart or basket. Keep your hands away from your face while shopping, and wash them as soon as you’re home. Put away your groceries, and then wash your hands again. If you wait even a few hours before using anything you just purchased, most of the virus that was on any package will be significantly reduced. If you need to use something immediately, and want to take extra precautions, wipe the package down with a disinfectant. Last, wash all fruits and vegetables as you normally would.

We should all be grateful for those who continue to work in food production, distribution and sales, and for all those delivery drivers. They’re keeping us all safer by allowing us to stay home. And, as I said, the risk of disease transmission from surfaces is real. We can never eliminate all risk; the goal is to minimize it — because we all will occasionally need to go grocery shopping and receive supplies in the mail.

But if you take basic precautions, including washing your hands frequently, the danger from accepting a package from a delivery driver or from takeout from a local restaurant or from buying groceries is de minimis. That’s a scientific way of saying, “The risks are small, and manageable.”


You don’t have to read this next article. But if you have cancer or are otherwise severely immune compromised, this article will give you detailed and precise procedures and ways to think about about dealing with groceries.

My big brother Joe is a scientist, among many other things. This was written by a personal friend of Joe’s, who is also a scientist. She explains in great detail how to clean things and then keep them clean. I believe her to be accurate.

  I had to stop and laugh helplessly half a dozen times as I was reading this. I imagined myself in a Charlie Chaplin routine. I’m glad I’m staying home at this point! We only have to deal with objects coming into the house: mail, packages, groceries. Everything is in a front entry Parking Lot for 3 days, unless it needs to go to the fridge or freezer. So the task isn’t really that overwhelming after all, at least for people who aren’t going out.

  My husband Zeke, who worked in a lab in college, says these procedures get easier pretty quickly. It’s a mind-set, a routine, and a habit of noticing. Ariel also summarizes at the end of this article. The CDC says to date they are not seeing much evidence of transmission from objects. None-the-less, I’ve put Zeke in charge of incoming objects at our house. 

  So take a deep breath and consider reading this long, detailed article. One good way to do it would be to read it aloud over the phone to a friend, with frequent stops to laugh or explode. I’m guessing all of us who never worked in a lab may have a lot of feelings about this!  ~ Love/Fl!p


Ariel Widget

March 22

I’ve had quite a few friends ask how they can reduce their chances of catching the nCOVID-19 virus. It works just as well for the cold and flu viruses.

I’ve spent a huge part of my adult life in various microbiology labs, working with actual and potential pathogens. I’d like to share some of the principles that were drilled into my head from day one. From minute one.

In the lab, assume that every surface is contaminated. Bench tops, door handles, faucet controls, phones, everything. During cold, flu, and COVID-19 season, you may assume that anything other people touch is contaminated. The more people touch it; the greater the likelihood.

We humans are actually pretty pathogen-proof. Our skin is, for the most part, an excellent barrier. Pathogens need a way in, either through our eyes, nose, mouth, mucosal membranes, or from cuts or breaks in our skin. For this reason, DO NOT put your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth. You are inoculating yourself.

If personal items go into the lab, they will be contaminated. Keep them out, if you can. If you can’t (like eyeglasses), be aware that they might be contaminated. Limit their use as much as possible, and make a habit of sterilizing them when you leave. It’s complicated at first – wash your hands thoroughly. Then, disinfect your glasses, or phone, or whatever. Then wash your hands again.

If you use the restroom, wash your hands before and after. Use a paper towel on the exit door. Wash your hands before you leave the building, and the minute you get home.

When you go into the lab, wash your hands, and without touching anything, put on sterile protective equipment. When you leave, remove your gear (gloves last) then wash your hands. Exit the lab, then wash your hands. The point is to keep the germs from getting out.

During cold and flu (and COVID-19) season, we’re trying to keep germs where they are. We’re keeping them from getting IN to our homes, and of course, our bodies.

If you’re exposed to aerosol-spreading organisms in the lab, you wear a mask and eye protection. This doesn’t apply to COVID-19, but it does to the cold and flus. During cold and flu season, I often wear a scarf or muffler over my nose and mouth when I’m in high-risk areas, like crowds and the light rail. It’s usually cold anyway.

Know that most surfaces where people frequent might be contaminated. Infected people are shedding (and spreading) huge quantities of virus. Anything they touch or sneeze on is contaminated. Assume anything people touch is contaminated.

When you go to the supermarket, you disinfect the cart handle, and that’s very good. You open the door to the freezer case, and now your hands are “germy”. They’re contaminated. If you eat a sample, or rub your eye, you’ve inoculated yourself. Now you touch your cart handle, so now it’s contaminated. You pick up a can of tomatoes. If it wasn’t contaminated before, it is now. You take out your glasses to read the label, so now your glasses are contaminated. You put the can back, and pick up a larger one, leaving germs on the first can for someone else.

You pick up a box of pasta that someone with contaminated hands has touched, and put it in your cart. Now you take out your phone and call home. You just contaminated your phone. You use your debit card at the register, and contaminated your fingers, because lots of germy, infected people have used the keypad. You put your debit card back in your wallet or purse – now your debit card and your wallet/purse are contaminated with the virus.

If you’re smart, you grab a disinfecting wipe on your way out, and disinfect your hands and cart. Excellent.

You stop at the gas station, and when you use the keypad and pump handle, you contaminated your hands. Now you use your pen to write down your milage, and get back in the car. Now your car handle and pen are contaminated.

You go to the Chinese takeout. You touch the door handle (contaminated), you give the cashier $40 (contaminated) and she gives $17 in (contaminated) change. Money is frequently very germy. You give her $7 for a tip, then put the ten dollar bill in your pocket. Now everything in your pocket is contaminated – your keys, you package of gum, your chapstick. You use the restroom and wash your hands, then take your keys out. You’ve just contaminated your hands again. If you hadn’t, you would on your car door handle and your steering wheel. You contaminated those at the gas station.

When you get home, you immediately wash your hands, which is good, but remember, your phone, your pen, your wallet, your keys, your debit card, your eyeglasses, everything in your pocket, AND your can of tomatoes and box of pasta are all contaminated. You take a shower before bed. Your hands are clean. You take your money and change out of your pocket and throw your pants in the laundry basket. Now your hands are contaminated again.

It helps to imagine that germs, especially viruses, are invisible, non-drying ink. It helps to understand how it spreads, and how we become infected. How the germs get into our bodies, and our homes. And, understand, it only takes a very small amount to get you sick. Another important thing about viruses: they don’t grow *on* you – they hijack your own cells, and turn them into virus-making factories. One sick person can produce an astonishing number of infectious viral units.

It may seem like a hopeless battle, but awareness is a vital tool during the cold, flu and COVID-19 season.

Four principles:
*Limit your exposure to infected people, when possible.
*Wash your hands. All the time. At home; at work; out and about.
*Keep your fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth, unless you KNOW they’re clean. Do not put a pen, or gum, or anything else in your mouth without consideration.
*Be especially aware of ‘in commune’ fomites, or inanimate objects that we move freely between contaminated area and clean area, like phones, eyeglasses and pens.

Most important – if you’re sick, for the love of God stay home. Keep your kids home. If you’re sick and you MUST go out, be aware that you’re putting a lot of other people at risk.

Stay safe, everybody. Stay well.

We’ll get through this.



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