Half a loaf is better than none. 

And in the age of COVID, even a quarter loaf now looms large. 

Just ask La Conner Regional Library Director Jared Fair and Lincoln Theatre Executive Director Roger Gietzen. 

Both received a welcome dose of good news last week when Gov. Jay Inslee modified COVID-19 library and theater restrictions. 

The governor approved guidelines allowing libraries and theaters to operate at 25 per cent capacity in Phase Two of the state’s Safe Start plan Oct. 6.

Skagit County has been in Phase 2 since June.

But Fair and Gietzen nevertheless indicated they will move cautiously going forward. 

Fair, who took the helm at La Conner Regional Library in May, said configuring the La Conner building for 25 per cent capacity is the first step toward reopening. 

“We are working on the who, what and how we will open at 25 per cent,” he said. He likened Wednesday’s news to “a little bit of whiplash” and projected no library in Skagit County would open before November. He predicted La Conner would move faster than any other area library.

After COVID-19 forced its closure in March, the library has increased its digital presence and offered curbside pickup. 

Like other library and public officials in Skagit County, Fair is committed to a “safety first” policy for reopening. 

Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said that city has installed plexiglass barriers in its library, among other precautions. Burlington city staff was to begin formulating a library reopening plan this week. 

Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau said safety issues will largely determine when – or if – its city library reopens under the new modifications.

“We are thrilled with the announcement about the Phase 2 modifications,” said Gietzen, “but are also taking the news of COVID cases on the rise in Skagit County seriously.” 

Downtown Mount Vernon’s historic Lincoln Theatre opened in 1926. It shows films and hosts concerts among other widely attended events. Its programs enjoy a loyal following, including La Conner area residents, many who are members. 

The Lincoln closed its doors for COVID-19 following a sold-out March 8 International Guitar Night Concert. Since then, it has shifted to virtual and live streamed entertainment. 

To reopen, it needs access to the quality films upon which the Lincoln’s reputation has largely been built. 

That could be a challenge, Gietzen cautioned. 

“We are working with our film booker to obtain some films but there’s not a lot available,” Gietzen told the Weekly News. “The cineplexes have first rights to all new releases. If there is not quality content available to us we won’t take the risk.” 

Gietzen said the Lincoln staff has regularly reached out to Skagit County Health Officer Dr. Howard Liebrand and the county health department to ensure that the theater meets all state requirements for reopening. 

Theater attendees will be required to maintain a six-feet social distance between households, and to wear facial coverings when not eating and drinking.