White House wants businesses to promote Covid vaccine, warns decline in new cases has plateaued

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration wants more businesses to encourage their employees and customers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, part of a continued push to convince Americans to receive the vaccine ahead of an influx of more doses.

White House officials also warned that after weeks of seeing new infection rates falling, the drop off appears to have hit a plateau.

The administration is asking large business lobbying groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and Business Roundtable, to encourage their members to make it easier for employees to get vaccinated with paid time off or other compensation, said Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid-19 response.

The push comes as officials say they are seeing a troubling trend in the number of cases in the U.S. in recent days. After weeks of declines, the number of new cases appears to be plateauing at just under 70,000 a day and there has been a slight uptick in the number of deaths this week. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency is discouraging states from lifting restrictions at this point given the elevated numbers across the U.S.

“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” said Walensky, in a briefing with reporters. “We cannot get comfortable or give into a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”

The administration is also asking businesses to require masks and social distancing on their premises and echo the CDC recommendations, Slavitt said.

He pointed to some examples of how companies can help, including Uber, PayPal and Walgreens agreeing to provide $10 million worth of free rides to vaccination centers. Lyft is partnering with CVS and the YMCA to provide 60 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites, Slavitt said.

The federal government also announced it will open mass vaccination centers at the United Center in Chicago that will administer 6,000 shots a day and the Four Seasons Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, that will give 3,000 shots a day. The federal government has already opened seven community mass vaccination centers and plans to open nine more.

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