McDonald's told corporate employees Wednesday that it's now requiring workers to get vaccinated as COVID cases continue to soar nationwide.
The burger giant delayed the reopening of its offices from September 7 to October 11 to give employees time to get the shots. Employees must be fully vaccinated by September 27. However, some workers will be able to use medical or religious exemptions. The policy only applies to corporate level employees, not those at the restaurant level.
“Since the Town Hall, we’ve heard from many of you that you would feel more comfortable returning to the office if you had more certainty your colleagues were vaccinated,” said Heidi Capozzi, McDonald's head of human resources, in an internal message to employees. “We are also being asked by state and local governments to require vaccinations for corporate employees because getting more of the population vaccinated reduces our own chances of being infected and contributes to community protection.”
McDonald's joins a growing list of major corporations requiring vaccinations, such as Amazon, Google, Apple, and Walmart. Earlier in August, the fast-food chain decided to reimpose mask mandates for customers and employees at all U.S. restaurants in high transmission areas, no matter vaccination status.
Chipotle may soon follow. CEO Brian Niccol told the Washington Post Wednesday that Chipotle is waiting on final approval of the vaccine before making a decision on whether to mandate it for workers at the corporate office. If that does occur, the company is leaning toward making it a requirement to return to the office and when coming together in big gatherings, which are as large as 4,000 employees. Pfizer's vaccine could receive full approval from the FDA within weeks, CNN reported.
"So, once the vaccine gets to approval, I think it just gives a lot more, I think, latitude in ensuring every employee is vaccinated before they can come to the office, before they can come to large gatherings," Niccol said in the interview. "And our company obviously wants everybody to be safe and be doing the best thing possible for their health and wellbeing."
COVID cases have spiked in recent weeks due to the highly contagious Delta variant. More than 132,000 COVID cases were reported on Tuesday, up from 18,700 on July 1. Roughly 59 percent of Americans have received at least one dose while 50.3 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
In response to COVID cases rising, New York City announced that it will require restaurants to ask for proof of vaccination for indoor dining. Los Angeles is exploring a similar measure. Danny Meyer revealed earlier in August that his New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group will require all restaurant workers, new hires, and customers to be vaccinated. Employees have until September to decide whether to get vaccinated.
With the labor crunch continuing to hurt restaurants, many are hesitant to require vaccinations for restaurant level workers because it may make it more difficult to attract or retain an already thin workforce. Meyer acknowledged that concern, but said he's willing to bet individuals rather enter a safe environment.
“The restaurant industry from the very beginning has stepped up,” Meyer said to CNBC at the time. “They’ve stepped up before we had vaccinations. They stepped up in very dangerous situations all last year serving people indoors, outdoors, etc. throughout the country. And I think we have a responsibility within our industry—which is the largest aggregate employer of any industry in the country—to show America why we have always been dedicated to hygiene.”