Biden to meet U.S. CEOs in 'rallying cry' for vaccine mandates

By Trevor Hunnicutt 

  WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden was scheduled to meet on Wednesday with business leaders and CEOs, as he pushes companies to require workers to be vaccinated amid a surge in COVID-19 infections among those not yet inoculated. 

  Biden last week announced vaccine mandates for all federal employees and larger companies as the number of infections in the United States continued to rise, hospital beds filled up and face mask requirements returned, all while some Republican-led states defy recommendations from health officials. 

  Polls have shown a majority Americans support some form of mandates. 

  The U.S. president told reporters 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 a shot. 

  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. 

  The meeting involves business leaders and chief executives that have instituted vaccine requirements or are working to implement the new rules, the White House official said. 

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

  Participants in the meeting include the chief executives of Walt Disney Co, Microsoft Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, Kaiser Permanente, 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, also will attend, the White House said. The Business Roundtable has welcomed Biden's announcement on mandates. 

  The fast-spreading Delta variant has sparked a new wave of sickness and death, posing increased risk not just to the country but to a president who ran on promises 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 encourage 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 and Nick Zieminski) 

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