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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, center, stands next to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, during a news conference where the governor announced he would relax some restrictions imposed on businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday, April 27, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)(Eric Gay)

Patrick declined to speculate on an exact date.

By Allie Morris– Dallas Morning News
7:26 PM on May 6, 2020

AUSTIN — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a lengthy blueprint Wednesday for reopening the Texas economy that emphasizes personal responsibility in stopping the spread of novel coronavirus.

The Republican declined to speculate when the state’s businesses can reopen fully. But business leaders he tasked with authoring the 113-page report said it could happen safely “in the not-too-distant future.”

“It depends on our data, and not on a day-to-day basis, but as a trend,” Patrick said Wednesday during a call with reporters. “The real answer to that question is unknown.”

Over the past week, the state has reported an average of roughly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases each day. Though state leaders say increased testing will lead to more positive cases, they also acknowledge that reopening the economy will result in more spread.

The report comes a day after Gov. Greg Abbott announced another wave of business reopenings. Hair and nail salons can start allowing customers Friday, while gyms and office buildings can partially reopen on May 18. Restaurants, retail stores and movie theaters were allowed to open at 25% capacity beginning on May 1.

Patrick’s report recommends people screen themselves for signs of COVID-19 each morning and to stay home from work if they show symptoms. Likewise, the report suggests businesses send sick employees home, make hand sanitizer widely available and require the use of masks inside the workplace, if practical.

“One of the recommendations you will see throughout the report is that of personal responsibility,” said Brint Ryan, CEO of the Dallas-based tax consulting firm Ryan, who chaired Patrick’s task force. “We understood early on that personal responsibility and accountability is going to be crucial for safely reopening the economy. We know that screening and hygiene and those kinds of things begin at home.”

The report says businesses that don’t develop safe protocols “will lack customers whether or not their doors are open as customers and employees will only return if they feel safe.”

House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, however, criticized major retailers this week for a lack of social distancing in their stores, including employees with no masks and “zero regard for six feet of distancing.”

Take a step inside some of our largest home improvement superstores. Like me this morning, you’ll be surrounded by employees with no masks and zero regard for six feet of distancing — utterly failing at maintaining a safe capacity within the store.

Abbott’s orders require businesses to follow some rules, such as reopening at no more than 25% capacity. But others policies, including use of face masks, are recommendations.

Patrick had not previously revealed members of his Texans Back to Work Task Force, besides Ryan. A roster of the 22 other members show most are business leaders and over a dozen are campaign contributors, including Midland oilman and conservative mega donor Tim Dunn, according to an analysis by The Dallas Morning News.

Among other Dallas area contributors to Patrick on the task force were Ryan, Dallas pipeline owner Kelcy Warren and Woody Hunt of Hunt Companies.

Patrick’s office did not respond to questions about the membership.

What you need to know about coronavirus, plus a map of every case in Texas

The task force’s recommendations are reflective of its members, none of whom are front-line workers, said Rick Levy, President of the Texas AFL-CIO.

It’s unrealistic to expect employees to stay home without mandating businesses provide employees with paid sick leave, policies Republican state leaders have fought at the local level, Levy said.

“Don’t make the worker choose between feeding their family and following the recommendations,” he said. “You are putting all the risk on the individual worker.”

Senior Computational Journalist Ariana Giorgi contributed to this report.