Originally posted by María Méndez for Dallas News.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen on Monday called major retailers to tighten up their health and safety precautions as the state attempts to reopen up amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“While these behemoth retailers continue to reap profits with little to no regard for their employees’ and customers’ safety — ensuring the continued spread of COVID-19 — our local small businesses are the ones who suffer,” the outgoing Republican House Speaker said in a series of tweets.
Gov. Greg Abbott praised the COVID-19 measures taken by retailers such as Home Depot in an announcement allowing all stores, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen at a limited occupancy last week.
“I am limiting occupancy to no more than 25%,” Abbott said on April 30. “This is a proven business strategy and is exactly the type of practice successfully used by HEB and Home Depot.”
But Bonnen described the lack of social distancing and masks worn by employees at major home improvement chains as ‘disgusting.’
“I’m tired of navigating a germ pool in an overcrowded Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Walmart,” he tweeted. “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.”
Today, Abbott said salons could reopen Friday, and gyms could reopen May 18 with some restrictions.
The retailers mentioned by Bonnen were allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic because they were deemed essential. But Bonnen said if these corporations don’t follow guidelines from the governor for masks to be worn and for people to stay six feet apart, smaller businesses that have barely been allowed to reopen or are still waiting to reopen will suffer from the continued spread of coronavirus.
“These owners are the engine moving the reopening of Texas forward so they can pay their bills and employees,” he said. “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.”
Home Depot limited the number of customers “allowed inside to about 100 people at a time based on the square footage of the store” and has taken other measures to promote social distancing, said Home Depot spokeswoman Christina Cornell.
“We’ve cancelled all major spring promotions so we don’t drive unnecessary traffic to stores. We’ve also expanded curbside pickup, implemented signage, floor markings, plexiglass shields at checkout and service counters, social distancing captains, and PA announcements,” Cornell said. “All stores are closing early so they can focus on cleaning and sanitation and we’re providing non-medical masks and gloves to all associates in stores and distribution centers.”
Lowe’s and Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.