Return to work delayed: Tech companies respond to delta variant with vaccine requirements

Google, Facebook and Lyft are all mandating in-person employees get vaccinated. It's a new effort from private companies as coronavirus cases rise across the state.

Apple is also taking steps with new mask requirements. Starting Thursday, the tech giant will be requiring everyone, vaccinated or not, to wear a mask inside most its retail stores.

Employees working at its corporate offices will also be required to wear a mask.

A worker at the Apple store on University Avenue in Palo Alto says this location is among most of its more than 270 retail stores in the U.S. to require staff and customers to mask up even if they are vaccinated.

"I've lost a family member to COVID and I recently have another family member who's in the hospital with COVID. It's better to be safe than sorry," says Apple customer Eric Riley.  

Apple has said that it would push back employees return to office date from September to October.

Google is also delaying its return to office date from September to mid-October.

Twitter has decided to immediately close its opened offices in San Francisco and New York as well as pause future office re-openings.

Google and Facebook will require employees who return to company offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

"Facebook won't even take people out to lunch or arrange any travel," says Larry Magid, CEO of ConnectSafely.

The tech analyst says the changes make sense and that these tech giants are a large driving force in the economy. "These companies have a large young workforce.

They're well educated and they're under a lot of pressure from their own employees to be safe."

At The Patio in downtown Palo Alto, a tech worker says he's vaccinated and is waiting for word as to when he can return to company offices.

"I miss the togetherness and just having your co-workers be around you bouncing off ideas," says Ben Tan.

Dr. Blair Bigham works in ICU at Stanford. He says the delta variant has thrown a wrench in many companies' reopening plans.  

"If we can't rely perfectly on the vaccine to keep everybody safe, what else can we do? And making sure more people are vaccinated is the answer."  Dr. Bigham says the approach has to be nuanced in changing the minds of the people who are not vaccinated.

"I wouldn't get the vaccine. If they require me to get it at work, find something different," says Cristian Aguilar of East Palo Alto.

"It's going to take a while for people to change their whole mindset about getting vaccinated," Riley says he got vaccinated after a delay because he was concerned about side effects and that many of his friends are still not vaccinated.

The mask policy does not appear to be the same for all Apple stores.

Unlike the store in downtown  Palo Alto, an Apple employee at San Francisco's Union Square store says customers will not be required to wear a mask if they show proof of vaccination.

That employee also says the mask requirements are at the discretion of each store manager.