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Tyson Foods, Microsoft mandate vaccinations, U.S. automakers mask up

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By Tom Polansek and Aishwarya Venugopal

(Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc, Microsoft Corp and Detroit's Big Three automakers joined a growing list of U.S. companies that are changing their vaccination and masking policies as the Delta variant triggers renewed pandemic restrictions.

Microsoft said on Tuesday all employees, vendors and guests will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter its U.S. buildings, while meatpacker Tyson Foods said it was mandating vaccinations for its workforce.

"We did not take this decision lightly," Tyson Chief Executive Donnie King said. "We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today, under half of our team members are."

Gap Inc said any employee who enters its office buildings in its Bay Area, New York, and Albuquerque hubs must show proof of vaccination starting Sept. 7. https://bit.ly/3rRnpWY

The U.S. apparel chain also said it will continue to enforce wearing mask within its Bay Area hubs and stores, while in other locations, only unvaccinated employees will need to wear masks indoors, unless required by law.

While not mandating vaccinations, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Stellantis NV and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union will reinstate requirements to wear masks at all U.S. plants, offices and warehouses.

Surging COVID-19 cases and new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommends fully vaccinated individuals wear masks have led companies to rethink their policies.

U.S. officials said on Monday that COVID-19 cases, along with hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, have increased in the last week, even as vaccination rates have accelerated amid concerns over the highly contagious Delta variant.

Many of corporate America's biggest names have acted following the CDC's guidance, including mask mandates from McDonald's Corp and Apple Inc, and vaccination requirements by Walmart and Walt Disney.

Tyson said it is negotiating with unions about mandating vaccines for unionized workers, who make up about one-third of its hourly workforce. Rival JBS USA also said it is in talks with unions about vaccine mandates and already requires vaccines for new corporate employees,

America's largest meatpacking union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said it is concerning that Tyson is implementing its mandate before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved vaccines.

Labor unions and meat companies pushed states to speed up the vaccine rollout in the food sector to protect workers and avoid supply-chain disruptions from COVID-19 outbreaks, such as closures of slaughterhouses last year.

(Reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Steve Orlofsky and Shinjini Ganguli)