Skagit County is on its way to week three of being in Phase 2 of the state’s four phase Safe Start plan for reopening our economy while keeping new cases of the coronavirus at bay. Our beginning-to-open tourist town – and every community and county in Phase 2 – is taking baby steps along a carefully prescribed route. Businesses and cultural institutions: schools, churches libraries and art centers, must follow guidances issued by the state’s Departments of Health and Labor and Industry.

Residents – whether as customers, visitors or students – can only gather in public in limited numbers and for limited durations. So your party can only be five at a restaurant and you are to be with a total of five people beyond your household for the entire week.

The La Conner Library started curbside pickup yesterday and the schools are planning for students in classrooms in the fall. But the museums cannot open. They will in Phase 3, when gatherings of up to 50 people are sanctioned. Football games. whether high school or the Seahawks, are allowed in Phase 4.

Getting to the next phase depends on citizens’ behavior protecting their – and thus our—health. The county health department reports metrics daily to the state department of health. If citizens stay well, under the ceiling for each metric for a three week period, Skagit County will be approved to move to Phase 3, further opening life as we used to know it.

The Town of La Conner wants us safe and with a strong local economy, with cash registers ringing with tourist dollars. Town Council adopted a resolution requiring persons entering stores to wear masks last week, a shop but don’t drop approach.

Those tourists – and residents – must wear masks when entering a place where six feet of social distancing is not possible.

There is no enforcement, however, Town leaders are relying on another social norm – responsible individual behavior – for the safety net between visitors and locals. That is a thin, porous layer between health and getting infected.

The very real tension between earning livelihoods and maintaining safe lives continue to play out. The virus continues to be a far off concept– like racism – while the absence of income and lost business is up close and painfully felt.

This need for tourists and their dollars is in direct contradiction to the very name of the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Plan. The travel guidance for Phase 2 counties is “limited non-essential travel for Phase I & II permissible activities.” Permissible activities are limited. Retail allows in store purchases “with restrictions” and restaurants are to serve at less than 50% capacity with table size restricted to a maximum of five people.

La Conner businesses have reopened with those restrictions. Our every gut feeling and planned action is to funnel people into the business district and hope they make purchases – lots of them. We still cling to the old normal, the past way of doing things.

And yet, the town, the county and the state do not have a clean bill of health. Every week people are testing positive in Skagit County. Every day out-of-country residents visit. Inevitably some will have the virus. This is also true: neither our state nor country is done with the first stage of this coronavirus. We are still in the midst of its first occurrence.

The best way to stay healthy and move Skagit County forward: stay six feet away, wear a mask when closer, provide masks to the bare faced and follow health professionals’ directives.