By Bill Spinks

As Ellis County slowly reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic, a task force of about 35 health care, business, governmental, non-profit and spiritual leaders is planning the path forward to economic recovery.

On April 22, County Judge Todd Little assembled an Economic Recovery Task Force to provide input and establish voluntary safety guidelines for the reopening of Ellis County. The task force’s recommendations were presented to the Ellis County Commissioners’ Court at last week’s bi-weekly meeting.

This task force was charged with providing recommendations for reopening Ellis County; hearing suggestions from centers of influence of different business sectors across the county; forming and distributing guidelines for safely reopening businesses in Ellis County; and providing job resources to residents in need.

“The effects of these unprecedented times have impacted our way of life here in Ellis County and across Texas,” Little said in a press release. “Our people have come together and are ready to get back to work while promoting the health of the community. We wanted to be certain as Governor (Greg) Abbott looked to reopening the State of Texas, we were prepared locally to re-engage the economy. The provided guidelines have been compiled by and for the economic success of Ellis County businesses and organizations.”

The Task Force has collaborated to construct strategies and appropriate voluntary standards to follow the timeline outlined by Abbott for reopening businesses, while prioritizing the health and safety of all residents.

According to information provided by Judge Little’s office, the task force created four focus groups of existing industries within the county ranked by risk and established long lists of guidelines for each group. As the recovery proceeds, each group would reopen in phases based on these risk levels.

The guidelines are available at .

The group of lowest risk, Focus Group One, is encouraged to reopen quickly. Examples are professional office businesses with cubicles or offices that are adequately spaced and have limited or no interaction with the public.

Focus Group Two consists of businesses that have moderate or intermittent ability to maintain physical distancing and have limited exposure to the public, such as distribution warehouses, manufacturing plans, tradesmen or material wholesalers.

Focus Group Three is similar to the second group, with the difference being moderate to close contact with the public. Examples of these are general free-standing retail establishments such as clothing stores or general merchandise stores.

Finally, Focus Group Four are businesses that have variable ability to maintain physical distancing among employees and have moderate/close contact with the public, or the public is in moderate/close proximity to each other — for instance, dental facilities, hair salons, massage therapists, tattoo shops, taverns, gyms, restaurants, wineries, food trucks/stands, outdoor patios, outdoor activities/sports, racetracks and movie theaters. This group has the most stringent guidelines — again, completely voluntary — developed by the task force.

As more businesses are reopening in accordance with Abbott’s orders, Ellis County businesses are being directed to maintain accountability for voluntary compliance with the provided guidelines.

Members of the task force have committed to a pledge to: continue efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adhering to safe practices; focus on protecting the ongoing health and welfare of every member of our community; act responsibly in re-engaging the economy, to continue following all health precautions and sanitizing guidelines, and to care for my neighbors and customers; and maintain accountability for voluntary compliance with the provided guidelines.