Some CEOs decline White House dinner for Mexican president amid coronavirus surge

The White House CEO dinner on Wednesday evening with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will have some notable absences among corporate invitees - one because of a positive coronavirus test. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, after he experienced a fever and a cough, and will not attend the dinner, a spokeswoman for the trade group said. The dinner, in the White House's East Room, is the most prominent state-level social event hosted by the Trump administration since coronavirus lockdowns began in March. It comes as several states report record new COVID-19 cases, the United States crosses here 130,000 deaths, and New Jersey on Wednesday ordered face masks to be worn in public. President Donald Trump has declined to wear a mask in public and his administration has shunned nationwide guidance on their use, leaving it up to states and local authorities despite increasing calls for mask use from within his own Republican Party. His re-election campaign ahead of the Nov. 3 election will "strongly encourage" masks at Trump's next rally in New Hampshire on Saturday. The District of Columbia is currently requiring the wearing of masks in businesses and other public places and is prohibiting mass gatherings of more than 50 people The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable CEO group and other business groups called on the White House and the National Governors Association last week to issue clear, consistent guidance requiring the wearing of masks in public to slow the disease’s spread. "Absent stronger measures to prevent transmission, communities across America risk another round of shutdowns, broad restrictions on non-essential activities, and irreparable economic harm," the groups wrote in a letter here BIG 3 AUTO CEOS NOT ATTENDING Detroit automaker CEOs Jim Hackett of Ford Motor Co, Mary Barra of General Motors Co and Mike Manley of Fiat Chrysler will not attend the dinner, with representatives for the companies saying that they were not available. All three companies stand to benefit from the launch of a new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal that replaces the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. Ford is sending its North American operations chief, Kumar Galhotra, and GM plans to send another senior executive, the two automakers said. Some company officials said that they only learned about the dinner invitations on Monday. Many companies are in non-disclosure periods ahead of reporting second-quarter earnings, while Detroit automakers are in the midst of annual summer plant shutdowns, when some executives take vacations. An Intel Corp spokesman confirmed that its chief executive, Bob Swan, would attend the dinner. A Mexican business source said that other companies expected to be represented - although not necessarily by CEOs - included: Sempra Energy, Blackstone Group, Royal Dutch Shell, Nucor Corp, Dairy Foods International, Cabot Oil and Gas Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp and United Parcel Service Inc. A number of prominent Mexican CEOs were expected to attend, according to a press release here issued by Grupo Empresarial Angeles CEO Olegario Vazquez, who is attending. They include Grupo Financiero Banorte Chairman Carlos Hank Gonzalez and Grupo Televisa co-CEO Bernardo Gomez. The Farm Bureau’s Duvall is quarantined at his Georgia dairy farm, and “is feeling strong and in good spirits,” Farm Bureau spokeswoman Terri Moore said. Duvall had traveled only once within the past two weeks in an official capacity within Georgia, and hosts of those events and others he had come in contact with were being notified, she said.

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