President Biden met with high-profile business leaders Wednesday to tout their support for COVID-19 vaccine mandates announced by his administration last week.
Biden announced last week that all businesses with 100 or more employees must require their workers to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. The administration is also requiring all health facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their workforces and all federal employees to get vaccinated as well, without the option of regular testing instead.
The sweeping new vaccine mandates comes as the highly contagious delta variant has sent COVID-19 cases surging to more than 150,000 a day and is causing more than 1,500 daily deaths. Under Biden’s directive, the Department of Labor will develop a rule requiring companies with 100 or more employees to require their staff to be vaccinated or tested weekly. Employers could face fines of $14,000 per violation, according to reports. The White House estimates that the policy will impact about 80 million workers, or two-thirds of the country’s workforce. Businesses will also be required to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated.
“Vaccinations mean fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and in turn it means a stronger economy,” Biden said at the meeting. “I think everybody should join me today, and I look forward to working together to beat this pandemic to keep our economy growing.”
Biden pointed to support for his vaccine mandates from the business executives in attendance to counter criticism from Republican lawmakers and state governors that his mandates are executive overreach. Executives from Disney, Microsoft, Walgreens, Kaiser Permanente and Columbia Sportswear were in attendance at the White House meeting.
The Republican National Committee, which has threatened to sue the administration if the mandates go into effect, issued a statement after the White House meeting saying, “Instead of meeting with corporate CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, Biden should meet with small business owners, millions of whom across the country are struggling to hire workers, pay their bills and stay afloat at the hands of Biden’s crippling policies. Biden continues to work against American small businesses and workers – from proposing crushing tax rates to an unconstitutional forced vaccine requirement.”