Biden enlisting Disney, Microsoft CEOs in push for vaccine mandates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will meet on Wednesday with U.S. CEOs and other top business leaders as he pushes companies to require workers to be inoculated amid a surge in COVID-19 infections among the unvaccinated.

Participants in the meeting include the chief executives of Walt Disney Co, Microsoft Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, the White House said.

Biden last week announced https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-deliver-six-step-plan-covid-19-pandemic-2021-09-09 vaccine mandates for nearly all federal employees, federal contractors, and larger companies as the number of U.S. infections continued to rise, hospital beds in some parts of the country filled up and mask requirements returned. After months of trying to persuade Americans to get free vaccinations, the White House is pushing state and local governments, companies and schools to adopt mandates requiring them instead.

Some Republican-led states and a sizable minority of Americans have defied vaccine recommendations from health officials, citing economic or freedom-of-choice arguments. With just 63% of the population having received at least one dose, the U.S. vaccination rate now lags https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access most developed economies.

Opinion polls have shown a majority of Americans support some form of vaccine mandate.

Biden told reporters https://www.reuters.com/world/us/white-house-says-it-is-encouraging-state-local-covid-vaccine-mandates-2021-09-14 on Tuesday that he had seen "positive support for mandates, by and large," although he conceded that there would always be a small percentage of people who would refuse to get inoculated.

The White House hopes Wednesday's meeting will serve "as a rallying cry for more businesses across the country to step up and institute similar measures," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The meeting involves business leaders and chief executives who have instituted vaccine requirements or are working to implement the new rules, the person said.

The policies announced last week require nearly all federal workers and federal contractors to get COVID-19 vaccinations and push large employers to have workers inoculated or tested weekly. The new measures would apply to businesses with more than 100 employees, about two-thirds of all U.S. workers.

Also among those slated to meet with Biden are the CEOs of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream.

Josh Bolten, president of the Business Roundtable representing employers of 20 million workers, will attend, the White House said. The Business Roundtable has welcomed Biden's announcement on mandates. Bolten was a chief of staff to Republican former President George W. Bush.

The fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus has sparked a new wave of sickness and death, posing increased risk not just to the country but to a president who as a candidate promised to get control of the pandemic.

Some small employers have voiced frustration with the mandate. Large employers like U.S. automakers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co and rare-earths producer MP Materials Corp said they are encouraging employees to get the vaccine, but they were quiet about Biden's executive order.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)

09/15/2021 16:30

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