Covid News: Mayor Fights Chicago’s Largest Police Union Over Vaccinations
The city filed a complaint after the head of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police urged officers to ignore an order to report their vaccination status. An F.D.A. advisory panel recommended the authorization of J.&J. booster shots.
Published Oct. 15, 2021
Updated Nov. 8, 2021
Here’s what you need to know:
Chicago’s mayor and the city’s largest police union clash over vaccinations.
An F.D.A. panel unanimously recommends J.&J. boosters.
Here’s what happens next after an F.D.A. panel recommended Moderna and J.&J. boosters.
Vaccinated travelers from abroad, including Canadians with mixed doses, can enter the U.S. starting Nov. 8.
Italy’s stringent ‘vaccine or test’ requirement for workers took effect Friday, more or less smoothly.
With vaccinations ahead of schedule, South Korea will ease Covid rules, and other international news.
Toyota will cut production in November 15 percent amid pandemic chip shortages.
Chicago’s mayor and the city’s largest police union clash over vaccinations.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago has faced fierce resistance to the vaccination orders from John Catanzara, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago (center).Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press
A clash between Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and the head of the city’s largest police union over coronavirus vaccinations intensified on Friday as the city filed a complaint against the union, arguing that it was threatening an illegal strike.
City employees in Chicago are required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, but John Catanzara, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, has urged police officers to ignore the order and risk discipline or loss of pay. Employees who are not vaccinated will be subject to twice-weekly testing, but vaccinations are not required.
Mr. Catanzara released a video on Tuesday predicting that Chicago police officers would not report to work because of the policy. He said that if a large number of police officers refuse to submit to testing or reporting their vaccination status to the city, “it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up.”
“Whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep,” he added.
He escalated the dispute on Thursday, releasing another video that urged officers not to comply with any direct orders from their supervisors to provide their vaccination status in an online portal.
But, on Friday, the police union said in a statement: “President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage.” The police union also announced that it had filed its own legal request for the courts to hear the case.
Ms. Lightfoot, who has often faced resistance from Mr. Catanzara since taking office in 2019, said in a statement on Friday that his actions threatened public safety.
“As Chicago’s mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders,” Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement. “President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a city and department directive or order.”
On Friday evening, a judge in Cook County ordered Mr. Catanzara to refrain from making additional statements on social media encouraging police officers to refuse to enter their vaccination status in the city portal.
A strike from the police union is illegal under both state law and the union’s contract with the city, Ms. Lightfoot said.
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Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of the most recent seven days of data.
Chicago is following other cities throughout the United States in requiring city employees to be vaccinated or submit to frequent coronavirus testing. Last week, Ms. Lightfoot softened the original policy requiring vaccination, saying that public workers could opt out of the city’s mandate until the end of the year by getting tested regularly.
City officials have said that employees who fail to report their vaccination status by the Friday deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.
In Baltimore, a police union leader told officers not to disclose their vaccination status to city officials amid negotiations over a vaccination mandate scheduled to go into effect there next week, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Law enforcement officers have died of Covid-19 in large numbers throughout the pandemic, making the virus by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that catalogs the deaths of law enforcement officers.
Police officers in many departments have been slow to get vaccinated, and several other cities have issued vaccine or testing mandates. In San Jose, Calif., city leaders decided just as a vaccine mandate was taking effect to allow unvaccinated officers to remain employed through the end of the year, with incremental discipline and testing requirements.
John Yoon contributed reporting.
Julie Bosman
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An F.D.A. panel unanimously recommends J.&J. boosters.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose.Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
WASHINGTON — A key federal advisory committee voted unanimously Friday to recommend Johnson & Johnson booster shots, most likely clearing the way for all 15 million people who got the company’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine to receive a second shot.
If the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention accept the recommendation, as expected, boosters could be offered by late next week. But many committee members made clear that they believed Johnson & Johnson recipients might benefit from the option of a booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, something a top F.D.A. official said the agency was considering.
With a series of votes over the past month to recommend boosters for all three coronavirus vaccines used in the United States, the panel set aside significant divisions and skepticism about whether extra shots are needed and edged ever closer to the goal that President Biden laid out in August when he called for boosters for all adults.
Well over 100 million fully vaccinated people will be eligible for boosters if the F.D.A. and C.D.C. endorse the committee’s latest recommendations, even though some scientists say that the evidence supporting boosters remains weak and that it would have been wiser to focus on reaching the unvaccinated, including abroad.
See How Vaccinations Are Going in Your County and State
See where doses have gone, and who is eligible for a shot in each state.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine took a beating at Friday’s session, as did the F.D.A. for pushing for a decision without verifying all of the data that the company had submitted.
But the panel members appeared swayed by the argument that it would be unfair to deny Johnson & Johnson recipients an additional shot after endorsing boosters for recipients of the other two vaccines, especially in the face of evidence that Johnson & Johnson offers the weakest protection of the three.
“There is a public health imperative here, because what we’re seeing is that this is a group with overall lower efficacy than we have seen with the mRNA vaccines,” said Dr. Arnold Monto, the committee’s acting chairman and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “So there is some urgency there to do something.”
In its second successive day of discussion on boosters, the group wavered on whether it would be wise to soon offer extra shots to younger recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Noah WeilandCarl Zimmer and Sharon LaFraniere
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Here’s what happens next after an F.D.A. panel recommended Moderna and J.&J. boosters.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
An independent panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration voted on Thursday to recommend a booster shot for many recipients of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, and on Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose.
So what happens now? There are further steps at the F.D.A., then steps at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the process ends with the states. Here’s how it breaks down.
The F.D.A.
The F.D.A., a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that controls and supervises medications and other elements related to public health, takes up the advisory panel’s recommendation, which includes the question of who should be eligible. The advisory panel’s votes are not binding, but the F.D.A. typically follows them.
Then the F.D.A. itself issues a determination on whether to authorize the boosters and for whom. Such decisions are typically issued within a few days of advisory committee meetings.
The C.D.C.
An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States’ public health agency, reviews the F.D.A.’s decision. Next week, that panel is scheduled to meet and vote on its recommendations regarding boosters.
The C.D.C. takes up that panel’s recommendations, and the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, issues the agency’s guidance on whether boosters should be used and who should be eligible. That guidance is deeply influential for states, doctors, pharmacies and other health care institutions and the general public. As with the process at the F.D.A., the panel’s recommendations are not binding, but the C.D.C. usually follows them.
However, there was a rare exception last month: When a C.D.C. advisory panel rejected the F.D.A.’s recommendation that frontline workers be included among those eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, Dr. Walensky overrode her own agency’s advisers and sided with the F.D.A.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the C.D.C. director, issues guidance for states and the general public. Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
The states
State health departments generally follow the recommendations of the C.D.C. In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, the shots began being administered widely immediately after Dr. Walensky announced the C.D.C.’s guidance to allow them for people over 65, patients in nursing homes and other institutional settings, those with underlying medical conditions, and frontline workers.
Correction: Oct. 27, 2021
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this item misidentified the Food and Drug Administration official who issues the final decision on vaccine authorization. It is the acting chief scientist, not the acting commissioner. The error was repeated in a picture caption.
Andrea Kannapell
These are the experts who advised the F.D.A. on both the J.&J. and the Moderna booster shots.
The Food and Drug Administration typically issues decisions about vaccine matters soon after its scientific advisory panel offers recommendations.Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of expert advisers voted on Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for people 18 and older, at least two months after the first dose. The committee also voted on Thursday to recommend booster shots for many recipients of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.
While the panel’s recommendations are not binding, they are very likely to influence the F.D.A.’s decision — typically issued within a few days after the advisory committee weighs in. If the agency says yes to the boosters, the process moves to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Who are the experts on the F.D.A.’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee?
The committee now has 19 voting members who are scientific authorities from a range of fields, including immunology, vaccine safety and virology. Many are medical practitioners.
Dr. Arnold Monto, the acting chair of the committee, is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Here are the other voting members:
Dr. Archana Chatterjee, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, is the dean of the Chicago Medical School and vice president for medical affairs at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.
Capt. Amanda Cohn is a doctor and senior official overseeing vaccine policy at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Dr. Oveta Fuller is a trained pathologist and an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at University of Michigan Medical School.
Dr. Hayley Gans is a professor of pediatrics infectious diseases at Stanford University Medical Center.
Dr. James Hildreth is a professor of medicine and the president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College.
Dr. Randy Hawkins is a practicing physician who specializes in internal medicine and sits on the committee as a consumer representative.
Dr. Michael Kurilla is a senior official with expertise in infectious diseases and vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Jeanette Lee is a professor of biostatistics at the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., and an expert on clinical trials.
Dr. Ofer Levy is the director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. H. Cody Meissner is professor of pediatric infectious disease at the Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston.
Dr. Patrick Moore is a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh.
Dr. Michael Nelson is a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He is also president of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.
Dr. Paul Offit is a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Dr. Steven Pergam is an expert on infectious diseases at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and an associate professor at the University of Washington.
Dr. Stanley Perlman is professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, and a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with expertise in coronaviruses.
Dr. Eric Rubin is the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and an expert on infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Dr. Mark Sawyer is a professor of pediatrics and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Diego, and Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
Dr. Melinda Wharton is the associate director for vaccine policy at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Dan Levin
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Vaccinated travelers from abroad, including Canadians with mixed doses, can enter the U.S. starting Nov. 8.
The specific date for when the Biden administration would lift travel restrictions for those traveling by air or hoping to cross the land border was previously unclear.Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
International travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus who have been barred from entering the United States during the pandemic will be able to enter the country on Nov. 8, according to a White House official, marking an end to restrictions that had walled off tourists and relatives seeking to visit their families.
The specific date for when the Biden administration would lift travel restrictions for those traveling by air or hoping to cross the land border was previously unclear. The administration last month said it would be implementing a new system in which fully vaccinated foreigners who show proof of a negative coronavirus test would be able to fly to the United States in early November.
Earlier this week, administration officials said people hoping to enter from Mexico or Canada who are fully vaccinated would be able to cross at the same time. But thousands around the world eager to organize their travel plans were still left wondering what specific date they would be able to enter.
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Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully inoculated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, would also be considered fully vaccinated, according to the C.D.C.
The C.D.C. also updated its guidelines on vaccine mixing, which is particularly relevant to Canada. At least 3.88 million Canadians have received mixed vaccine doses, according to media reports — and that number does not account for mixed doses administered in Quebec. The agency now considers full vaccination possible with mixed doses, so long as they are cleared either by the F.D.A. or the W.H.O.
The new travel system also comes with stringent requirements.
Unvaccinated foreigners will be broadly barred from entering the United States, although the White House official said there will be limited exemptions, including for young children.
Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination when crossing starting in January, giving them some time to adjust to the new rules, officials said. Those crossing land borders will not need to show a coronavirus test.
Foreigners hoping to fly to the United States will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding and a negative coronavirus test within three days of entering.
Unvaccinated Americans traveling from overseas will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before returning home and show proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States.
The U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, applauded the moves.
“The date is critically important for planning — for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again,” Roger Dow, the group’s president, said in a statement. “Reopening to international visitors will provide a jolt to the economy and accelerate the return of travel-related jobs that were lost due to travel restrictions.”
A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, another industry group, noted that even before the announcement of the date, airlines had seen an uptick in ticket sales to the United States from abroad.
“The full reopening of international travel is also critical to reviving economies around the globe, reinvigorating communities and supporting millions of jobs in the U.S. and abroad,” Katherine Estep, the spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Zolan Kanno-YoungsHeather Murphy and Vjosa Isai
Italy’s stringent ‘vaccine or test’ requirement for workers took effect Friday, more or less smoothly.
Italy is the first major European country to require all workers, private and public, to show proof of vaccination, a negative rapid swab test or recent recovery from Covid-19 before returning to offices, schools or hospitals. Employers can verify health passes on a cellphone app.Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters
ROME — Italy on Friday set a new bar for major Western democracies seeking to move beyond the pandemic by enacting a sweeping law that requires the nation’s entire work force — public and private — to have government-issued health passes, essentially forcing Italians to choose between getting a pass and earning a living.
With the step, Italy, the first democracy to quarantine towns and apply national lockdowns, is again first across a new threshold, making clear that it is willing to use the full leverage of the state to try to curb the pandemic and get the economy moving.
Italy’s measures, which require proof of vaccination, a negative rapid swab test or recent recovery from Covid-19 to go to the workplace, now stand as some of the toughest among Western democracies, which have struggled to balance public health needs with civil liberty concerns.
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Source: Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. The daily average is calculated with data that was reported in the last seven days.
For many Western governments, like those of the United States and France, that has resulted in refraining from national mandates while seeking other ways to encourage, coax and even mildly coerce people to get vaccinated.
Under Italy’s new rules, those who do not have a Green Pass, as the health certificate is called, must take unpaid leave. Employers are responsible for verifying the certificates, which are for the most part shown on a cellphone app, though hard copies are also acceptable. Workers risk fines of up to 1,500 euros — or about $1,750 — for not complying.
Not everyone has been accepting of the requirements. Last weekend, a demonstration of 10,000 Green Pass opponents — a mix of vaccine skeptics, conspiracy theorists, anti-establishment types and workers livid about having to pay for frequent swabs — was hijacked by right-wing extremists and turned violent, prompting Italy to once again reckon with its fascist legacy.
But on Friday, the rollout went more or less smoothly, with only scattered protests, as the majority of citizens accepted the new pass as a fact of Italian life and a tolerable sacrifice, like wearing masks indoors, to help the country get out of the pandemic and return to normalcy.
Jason Horowitz
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GLOBAL ROUNDUP
With vaccinations ahead of schedule, South Korea will ease Covid rules, and other international news.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea received a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the National Medical Center in Seoul on Friday.Choe Jae-Koo/Yonhap, via Associated Press
South Korea said on Friday that it was a week ahead of schedule for fully vaccinating 70 percent of its population against Covid and that it would ease social-distancing rules starting next week.
“If vaccinations continue without any setbacks and cases remain controlled in the next two weeks, a full-fledged transition to the new strategy will be possible from November,” said Lee Gi-il, a senior official in the health ministry.
In an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated, President Moon Jae-in and the first lady, Kim Jung-sook, each received a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in public on Friday.
Global coronavirus cases by region
This chart shows how reported cases per capita have changed in different parts of the world.
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Sources: Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and state and local health agencies (cases); World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau (population data).
South Korea never went into a full lockdown but has imposed stringent social-distancing rules, including a mask mandate, even outdoors. The country reached record numbers of new infections a few weeks ago after a major holiday, but daily coronavirus case numbers dropped to a seven-day average of 1,386 in the past week, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The number of reported deaths has remained very low, at 0.02 per 100,000 people in the past week, according to the data. Nearly 63 percent of the country had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, the health authorities said.
The rules are being relaxed as the pace of vaccinations outperforms earlier expectations, health officials said. Officials said they would likely reach the 70 percent target by the end of next week — about a week sooner than expected.
For the two-week period starting on Monday, the government will allow gatherings of up to four people who are not fully vaccinated, expanding the limit by two, and will permit reading rooms, performance halls and movie theaters to stay open until midnight, two hours longer than before.
People who are fully vaccinated will also be allowed to watch sports events in person again and to attend larger weddings, officials said.
Curbs on social gatherings, however, will remain tougher in and around Seoul, where cases have been more frequent.
In other Covid-related news around the world:
An estimated 43,000 people in Britain were mistakenly informed that they had tested negative for the coronavirus after previously testing positive, the officials said in a statement on Friday. The government suspended operations at a private laboratory after an investigation revealed that thousands of people — most of them from southwestern England — had received false negatives on P.C.R. tests from Sept. 8 to Oct. 12, after previously testing positive on lateral flow devices.
New South Wales will become the first state in Australia to allow fully vaccinated residents to return to the country without quarantining, starting next month, the authorities announced on Friday. Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad because of caps on the numbers of weekly returnees, and people entering the country must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense. New South Wales is the country’s most populous state, encompassing Sydney.
The authorities in pandemic-stricken Thailand, seeing to revive the country’s tourism, have reopened a cave where a dozen young soccer players and their coach were trapped for 18 days in 2018, becoming the focus of a tense rescue effort that captivated the world. The cave complex had been closed to tourists in April to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
John Yoon
Coronavirus cases rise in the northern U.S. amid lower temperatures.
People in line for Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 booster vaccinations in Southfield, Mich., last month.Emily Elconin/Reuters
Even as the coronavirus wave driven by the Delta variant is receding in much of the United States, many counties across the country’s northernmost regions are experiencing rising cases as colder weather arrives.
The top five states in new daily cases per capita are led by Alaska, which is logging the highest daily average: 125 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database. The next four states, with at least 67 cases per 100,000 people, are Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho.
Cases are at least trending downward or holding steady in those states. The five states with the fastest rising caseloads are Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota, and the two counties with the most cases per capita in Vermont and New Hampshire are on the Canadian border.
The virus followed a similar pattern last fall: Cases receded in the Southern regions after summer surges, while they steadily increased throughout the North as the weather became colder and people moved indoors.
The big difference this year is that Covid-19 vaccines are widely available, and most experts don’t expect another catastrophic winter wave, but they are warning Americans not to let their guard down as long as a large portion of the population remains unvaccinated.
In Minnesota, the average reported cases have climbed by 12 percent in the past two weeks. Scott Smith, a spokesman for Minnesota’s health department, said in an email that the department was more concerned about factors like the reopening of schools and relaxed mitigation measures than wintry weather.
Dr. Rafael Meza, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said increases were happening across Michigan but appeared to be higher in the center and in the Upper Peninsula. Dr. Meza said that factors like vaccination rates and school mask mandates could be part of the reason.
Cases have been high in Michigan’s school-aged children, especially in districts that do not have mask mandates, according to Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive.
“The weather drives people indoors into poorly ventilated spaces, and when either academic activities or social activities occur without masks in indoor, poorly ventilated spaces, that’s when transmission occurs,” Dr. Bagdasarian said, adding that winter was “coming at a very bad time for us here in Michigan.”
Daniel E. Slotnik
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Toyota will cut production in November 15 percent amid pandemic chip shortages.
A Toyota production line in Onnaing, France.Michel Spingler/Associated Press
Toyota said on Friday that it would cut November production targets at home and abroad by as much as 15 percent as the pandemic and a global semiconductor shortage have made it difficult for the Japanese automaker to meet its short-term manufacturing goals.
Automakers worldwide have struggled to keep up with rebounding demand for their vehicles as pandemic restrictions in the world’s largest auto markets ease and consumers look to make up for lost time. The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association said Friday that new car registrations in September were down 25 percent from a year earlier, largely because dealers don’t have enough cars to sell because of a shortage of semiconductors.
The global shortage of semiconductors — caused by such factors as supply chain woes and surging sales of home electronics during lockdowns — has hit the automotive industry hard, with Volkswagen reporting a 28 percent decline for September, the European manufacturers association said. Many automakers reduced orders for parts last year because of uncertainty about the pandemic’s effect on sales, and they are now struggling to source new components.
Other industry players have announced cutbacks in their manufacturing plans as a result, but Toyota, which had stockpiled chips, was able to hold out longer than its competitors.
In September, however, Toyota announced substantial cuts to its production targets for September and October, citing the lack of semiconductors and difficulties obtaining parts from suppliers in Southeast Asia hit by the coronavirus.
Toyota had initially planned to produce a million vehicles in November, hoping to make up for previous production shortfalls and meet strong global demand.
But continuing difficulties obtaining supplies have forced it to change those plans. The company now projects it will make 850,000 to 900,000 vehicles next month. It made 830,000 vehicles last November.
In a statement on its website, Toyota said it still expected to meet its annual production forecast of nine million vehicles — adjusted down in September from 9.3 million — by the end of its fiscal year in March.
The company said it was considering strategies to deal with its supply chain difficulties, noting that “we expect the shortage of semiconductors to continue in the long term.”
Ben Dooley
Minnesota’s governor calls up the National Guard to ease crowding in hospitals.
Gov. Tim Walz announced that he’ll call on the Minnesota National Guard to alleviate staffing shortages at health care facilities hit hard by the COVID-19 surge, in Robbinsdale, Minn., on Friday.Grant Schulte/Associated Press
Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota said on Friday that he would call upon the state’s National Guard to help ease staffing shortages that have kept hospitals from transferring Covid-19 patients for stepped-down care at long-term care facilities.
Mr. Walz called the transfers a “very typical thing in our medical system” and said they had been bottlenecked by capacity at those facilities. He said the National Guard will be given the training necessary to provide long-term care. He did not say how many soldiers will provide that relief, but said it will be “a fairly large contingent.”
The governor traveled to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, just outside Minneapolis, to announce the plan.
Minnesota Covid-19 Hospitalizations
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Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.
North Memorial’s chief executive, Dr. Kevin Croston, said his organization was struggling with staff shortages it did not have a year ago. “Our teams are now more stressed than they’ve ever been,” he said, adding that the “roller coaster” his employees are experiencing is happening all over Minnesota.
Last week, the state’s health commissioner, Jan Malcolm, said the staffing shortages among health care workers stemmed from “the extreme stress and burnout that they have faced for over 18 months now.”
The state is facing another surge of cases. Patients infected with coronavirus are nearing 1,000 in the state’s hospitals, according to state data. Cases in Minnesota are up 20 percent in the last two weeks, as are hospitalizations, according to a New York Times database.
How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You?
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Mr. Walz said that 400 of the patients currently hospitalized for Covid-19 should be transferred to lower-level care but beds at those facilities are not available — and those 400 hospital patients are taking up space needed for incoming patients.
LeadingAge Minnesota, the largest association of organizations caring for the state’s seniors, said in a statement that the governor’s plan will not solve the root causes of the staffing shortages. The trade group called on lawmakers to make immediate wage increases to support retention during a time when the industry is seeing record levels of burnout and turnover.
The state also announced that an emergency staffing pool would be reactivated, a measure used earlier in the pandemic.
State Representative Anne Neu Brindley, a Republican, issued a statement Friday saying Walz’s plan was “merely a band-aid that won’t outweigh destructive government policies,” according to the Star Tribune. She said policies like vaccine mandates are “driving health care worker resignations and layoffs.”
Andy Cochrane, chief hospital officer at North Memorial Health, said at the conference that 96 percent of intensive care patients at the system's hospitals in Robbinsdale and Maple Grove who tested positive for coronavirus are unvaccinated.
Nearly 60 percent of Minnesotans are fully vaccinated, according to a New York Times database, and Mr. Walz is urging a push for more. “Don’t end up in the hospital if you can help it,” he said. “One of the ways you can do that is: Get vaccinated.”
Lauren McCarthy
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