By Bill Spinks

Ellis County Judge Todd Little issued a statement on Monday in response to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that allows more businesses to begin reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbott last week had issued an order allowing for “retail to go” sales that began last Friday. The governor’s latest order, which goes into effect this Friday, allows for more business openings for some retailers, restaurants and movie theaters, with indoor seating restricted to 25% of capacity.

Abbott called this step Phase I of a three-phase plan to reopen the Texas economy, and the governor also said he will allow his statewide “stay-at-home” order to expire on Thursday, April 30.

Little said in his statement that on March 17, he proactively declared a local disaster in Ellis County to protect the health and welfare of our residents in response to COVID-19. He said he believes because of prompt action, Ellis County has not been a hotspot for COVID-19.

“By working together as a county, we have been successful in minimizing the loss of life and ongoing effects from COVID-19,” Little said. “COVID-19 has had a negative effect on all of us, it has affected our time with family and friends, our economic well-being, our schools and local businesses, and life as we know it here in Texas.”

As the Thursday expiration of the Ellis County “Stay-Home, Stay-Safe” order nears, Little emphasized that residents are still free to stay home if they feel the need. Likewise, he said, business owners should consider implementing sanitary and safety precautions to protect customers’ health.

“I encourage all residents to wear masks while in public and to practice distancing where practicable,” he said. “Residents should avoid all gatherings where safe distancing practices are not achievable.”

Little also announced in his statement that he has established an Ellis County Economic Recovery Task Force comprised of seasoned Ellis County business owners from a variety of business sectors.

“In the coming days, I will present recommendations from the Ellis County Economic Recovery Task Force to safely reopen our local businesses,” Little said. “In the event that we are not successful in our mitigation efforts as we reopen Ellis County and the State of Texas, further closures may be necessary to respond to a second wave of COVID-19. As a community we are hopeful for the future. We have come together in true Texas fashion and have displayed resilience and strength during these uncertain times. While the burden of this virus might remain, we will continue to rise above and overcome the effects of COVID-19.”