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Biden administration taps private companies, business groups for help in Covid fight

US President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine shot administered in the US during an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

White House officials on Friday will unveil a new partnership between the administration and top business groups to help with the national Covid-19 response and vaccine rollout, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid response, announced.

The partnership includes the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers as well as leaders in the Hispanic, African American, Asian American and other minority business organizations, Slavitt said.

The purpose of the partnership, a White House official told CNBC, is to call on businesses of all sizes “to promote public health measures to help reduce barriers to vaccinations for employees, and to help amplify public health messaging around masking and vaccinations to their customers and communities.” The New York Times reported on the partnership earlier.

Outside of the partnership, Walgreens and Uber are launching a pilot program to offer free rides to pharmacies to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Other companies, such as Dollar General, Best Buy and Target have said they will compensate their employees with paid time off to get the vaccine.

Slavitt added that Lyft is partnering with CVS and the YMCA have also partnered to provide 60 million free or discounted rides to help people get vaccinated. And Ford and The Gap, he noted, have vowed to donate more than 100 million masks for free distribution.

“I would not present these as federal efforts,” Slavitt said. “I would present these as efforts by organizations around the country that we are encouraging others to take stock of in some cases.”

The White House, with their new business partners, will urge more companies to do the same, Slavitt said.

Slavitt said administration officials will hold calls with business groups over the next few weeks urging them to help with the federal response to the pandemic. He said the White House will call on them to require employees to follow public health precautions and educate the public about the importance of getting vaccinated.

“First, require masking and social distancing to protect workers, customers and others on the premises,” Slavitt said. “Second, reduce barriers to vaccinations. Make a plan to get employees vaccinated and make it easier for employees to get vaccinated by providing incentives like paid time off or compensation for employees to get vaccinated when it’s their turn.”

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said “no American is safe from COVID-19 until all Americans are safe,” according to a statement. The group represents more than 12 million workers and 130,000 companies. “So manufacturers are proud to join the Biden administration in this call to arms.” He said the group and its members are committed to helping end the pandemic.