President Joe Biden will meet Wednesday with the heads of several companies and institutions that are requiring their employees get vaccinated against Covid-19, aiming to encourage more companies to follow suit, a White House official said.
Biden will meet virtually with the CEOs of United Airlines and Kaiser Permanente, as well as the president of Howard University and a South Carolina small business owner, the official said. All are requiring their employees be vaccinated and Howard University is also requiring students to be vaccinated.
Biden is expected to tout their efforts as models for the private sector, highlighting the ability of corporations, small businesses, health care providers and higher education to help the US boost vaccination rates.
Explaining his decision to require the company’s 67,000 employees to be vaccinated, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said it is clear that “everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated” and noted that Kirby has written “dozens of condolence letters to the family members of United employees who have died from COVID-19.”
“We’re determined to do everything we can to try to keep another United family from receiving that letter,” the executives wrote in a letter to employees last week.
The meeting comes two weeks after Biden required all federal workers to attest that they have been vaccinated or submit to regular coronavirus testing, a path the President said he hoped the private sector will also follow.
Just over half of the total US population is fully vaccinated and coronavirus cases have been surging in several states with the lowest vaccination rates, prompting the White House to look for new ways to convince or compel the unvaccinated to get their shots.
The Defense Department also moved this week to begin making coronavirus vaccination mandatory for all active duty service members by as late as mid-September.
White House officials have also been looking at other ways to use the powers of the federal government — including threats to withhold federal funds — to increase vaccination rates in the US. Several of those measures are currently being reviewed by White House attorneys.
After first focusing on boosting the supply of vaccines, the White House then shifted to a campaign to encourage vaccinations through incentives including through private sector partnerships and funding for workers to get paid time off to get vaccinated. But now, as the Delta variant spreads, the White House has increasingly set its sights on more hardline efforts that will make vaccination required or difficult to avoid for most Americans.
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