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Major Tech Company to Require Vaccines for Workers on Campus

Google will require vaccinations for employees working on the company’s in-person campuses, becoming the first major tech company in the country to issue a widespread mandate for its employees.

(TNS) — Google will require vaccinations for employees working on campuses, becoming the first major tech company to issue a widespread mandate.

The Mountain View tech giant also extended voluntarily work from home from September to Oct. 18. Apple also delayed its mandatory return for a month as the Delta variant surges.

"Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead," CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a memo to employees Wednesday. "Even as the virus continues to surge in many parts of the world, it's encouraging to see very high vaccination rates for our Google community in areas where vaccines are widely available."

Employees with special circumstances can apply to work remotely for the rest of the year, Pichai wrote.

Hours later, Facebook said it would also require vaccinations at its U.S. offices and evaluate other regions.

The move comes after government agencies announced vaccine requirements, including the cities of San Francisco and New York, and the Department of Veteran Affairs. A few other companies have done so, including Morgan Stanley. Salesforce, San Francisco's largest private employer, required its first batch of returning workers to be vaccinated, a requirement that remains throughout its offices.

"We were the first major technology company to introduce this science-based, safety first approach," said Cheryl Sanclemente, a Salesforce spokeswoman. The company is evaluating a potential expansion of the policy.

President Biden plans to announce on Thursday that all federal employees must be vaccinated or subject to regular testing, according to multiple media reports.

Pichai wrote that Google would share more information around medical and other exceptions. The company will let employees know 30 days in advance if plans change further.

On Tuesday, Google parent Alphabet reported a 62% surge in revenue to $61.9 billion in the second quarter compared to last year, underscoring how much the pandemic has benefited tech companies.

Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley, said many large companies he consults with wish government vaccine mandates were broader so it wouldn't fall to them to make the call.

"They're really carrying out the public health mission that the government is not, in my opinion," he said.

Swartzberg believes companies delaying their planned return to the office also makes sense, with projections that the delta variant could drive transmission rates higher into October.

Regardless of vaccination status, he said he strongly felt that "People should be wearing a mask indoors, vaccinated or not," especially in light of recent CDC guidelines. On Wednesday, California health officials recommended everyone in the state wear a mask indoors.

Other Bay Area companies are pushing back plans to reopen offices.

"We've pushed back our original Aug. 1 date for office re-opening to Oct. 4. We are continuing to pay attention to new developments and evaluate the situation," said Sarah Frueh, a spokeswoman for Blend, a financial technology company headquartered in San Francisco.

She added the company is allowing employees to permanently work remotely and plans to keep its office spaces for those who live close by and want to come in when they open.

Envoy, a San Francisco based company that makes software to help companies safely reopen their offices and create spaces that cater to hybrid work, opened its offices in June of this year but is taking precautions including requiring vaccinations for any employees that come in.

"Employees can come in as often as they'd like or not at all. We have about 20% who choose to come in at least once a week," said Larry Gadea, the company's founder and CEO, in an email.

The company also requires daily health screenings on top of vaccinations for in-person work but isn't mandating that people wear masks. "Of course, we will comply with all city, county, state and federal guidelines as they are issued," Gadea said. "We're keeping a close eye on any variant developments and are monitoring local infection rates."

© 2021 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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