Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen warned Monday morning that major retail stores may be hindering the ability of smaller businesses to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic by not following guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a series of tweets, the outgoing GOP speaker cited “some of our largest home improvement superstores,” saying workers are not wearing masks and keeping 6 feet of distance. He put the onus on the stores’ “corporate owners” to make sure the guidelines are being followed, suggesting their negligence hurts small businesses that would like to reopen soon.

"These owners are the engine moving the reopening of Texas forward so they can pay their bills and employees,” Bonnen wrote. "It is time we start calling out the retail giants for their disgusting disregard for the safety of others and the well-being of their neighboring businesses.”

Bonnen’s tweets come three days after Texas reopened all stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls at 25% capacity. The businesses to which Bonnen is apparently referring have remained open through the pandemic because they were classified as essential services under Gov. Greg Abbott’s stay-at-home order, which expired Thursday.

"I’m tired of navigating a germ pool in an overcrowded Lowe’s, Home Depot, and WalMart,” Bonnen said. "They haven’t dealt with the devastation of having to turn customers away and yet their behavior might be what keeps hair salons and gyms closed and restaurants at restricted capacity.”

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Abbott has held off on reopening hair salons and gyms for now, suggesting he could do so in a May 18 announcement or sooner. But pressure has been building, including among some Republicans in the House, to reopen those businesses immediately.

As part of the Abbott order that went into effect Friday, all businesses are asked to keep employees at least 6 feet apart from others and to “consider having all employees wear cloth face coverings.” More broadly, Abbott has encouraged all Texans to wear face coverings but has not required it, and he has prevented local governments from doling out punishment for noncompliance.


This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2020/05/04/coronavirus-updates-texas/.

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