Pfizer asks the F.D.A. to expand booster eligibility to all adults.

Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Thousands of gyms, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, salons and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles were required this week to start asking customers for proof that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, under one of the nation’s strictest vaccination rules.

The law, which the City Council approved last month, allows people with medical conditions that preclude vaccination, or a sincerely held religious objection, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours.

Officials say that the law is meant to help revive a city that has been under varied levels of restriction for more than a year and a half, and that requiring almost everyone who enters an indoor public space to be vaccinated will help prevent a surge in cases as winter approaches.

“Our businesses can’t afford another shutdown,” Nury Martinez, the president of the Los Angeles City Council, said in a statement. “The goal of this mandate is to limit the transmission of the virus and save lives.”

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.

But some business owners said they were frustrated that they might be forced to turn away customers.

Kim Prince, who owns Hotville, a popular Nashville hot chicken restaurant in the city’s Crenshaw district, said the vaccine verification requirement for indoor diners was just one more thing she had to worry about, along with staffing challenges and skyrocketing prices of ingredients.

While she has encouraged neighbors to get vaccinated and the restaurant has a patio, she said the mandate could put her employees in the difficult position of explaining the restrictions to customers — some of whom may be arriving from out of town — for the first time.

“We become the villain. We become that target,” she said. “That’s not my role — I’m not a policymaker, I’m a business owner who loves working in my own neighborhood.”

It’s particularly difficult for historically marginalized neighborhoods like Crenshaw, where fewer people are vaccinated than in Los Angeles County overall.

Ms. Prince said she thought much of the problem could be solved if the city did a better job of communicating the restrictions so that restaurant workers aren’t required to explain them to hungry, unsuspecting customers.

Some residents viewed the restrictions not as a mere logistical burden but as an unfair encroachment. At a protest outside City Hall on Monday, The Los Angeles Times reported, thousands of demonstrators voiced anger with vaccine mandates more broadly, especially those for public employees.

Still, across much of Los Angeles, the mandate took effect with little incident. Many bars, restaurants and fitness studios were already asking patrons to submit proof of vaccination if they planned to spend time indoors. In many cases, they said they hoped to lure back customers who might otherwise feel uncomfortable.

Allie Tichenor, the owner of Pilates Punx in the Echo Park neighborhood, said that even before the mandate went into effect, clients had asked whether instructors were vaccinated. Some volunteered their own vaccination status, and no one questioned the studio’s mask policy.

So although she didn’t hear from the city about the new law until just before it went into effect, she quickly emailed clients asking them to send proof of vaccination.

“It helps the clients feel really safe,” she said. “I’m happy to err on the side of caution, and I’ve figured if somebody wants to push back, maybe this isn’t the studio for them.”

Credit…Alisha Jucevic for The New York Times

Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators Tuesday to authorize their coronavirus booster shot for those 18 and older, a move that would likely make every adult in America eligible for an extra injection.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to grant the request, perhaps before Thanksgiving and well ahead of Christmas travel and gatherings. The prospect of all 181 million fully vaccinated adults in the nation having access to extra shots is a turnaround from two months ago, when an expert advisory committee to the F.DA. overwhelmingly recommended against Pfizer-BioNTech’s request to authorize boosters for all adult recipients of that vaccine.

President Biden initially wanted Americans to start receiving boosters in late September, but the beginning of the campaign was delayed after regulators insisted they needed more time to review safety and efficacy data. Some global public health experts said it would be better to focus on getting initial shots to poorer countries with low vaccination rates than to distribute extra shots here so soon.

For now, only those 65 and older, and adults who are at special risk because of medical conditions or where they work or live, can get booster injections if they initially got Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccine. The F.D.A. authorized boosters for all Johnson & Johnson recipients because that vaccine offers less protection. People are allowed to chose which of the three vaccines they want for their extra shot.

Nearly 25 million Americans have gotten boosters so far, including people with immune deficiencies who became eligible in August. That amounts to about 14 percent of people who have been fully vaccinated, a number that could rise sharply if all other adults become eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster. While the eligibility categories are quite broad, at least 30 to 40 percent of vaccinated adults are still excluded, according to estimates.

Some countries in Europe have already authorized booster shots for all adults; Israel is offering them to everyone 12 and up. On Tuesday, Canadian officials authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for everyone 18 and older.

In the United States, experts have been fiercely divided over whether booster shots are necessary for the entire population. Many say the vaccines continue to offer robust protection against severe disease and hospitalization, especially for younger people without underlying medical conditions.

There is virtually unanimous agreement that vaccinating the roughly 60 million Americans older than 11 who have yet to receive even their first shot should remain the government’s highest priority.


An earlier version of this item misstated the timing of when Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to ask federal regulators to expand authorization of their coronavirus booster shot to include all adults. It is Tuesday, not Wednesday.

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are in a bitter dispute over who deserves credit for inventing the central component of the company’s powerful coronavirus vaccine, a conflict that has broad implications for the vaccine’s long-term distribution and billions of dollars in future profits.

The vaccine grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the N.I.H., the government’s biomedical research agency — a partnership that was widely hailed when the shot was found to be highly effective. The government called it the “N.I.H.-Moderna Covid-19 vaccine” at the time.

The agency says three scientists at its Vaccine Research Center — Dr. John R. Mascola, the center’s director; Dr. Barney S. Graham, who recently retired; and Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett, who is now at Harvard — worked with Moderna scientists to invent the process that prompts the vaccine to produce an immune response, and should be named on the “principal patent application.”

Moderna disagrees. In a July filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company said it had “reached the good-faith determination that these individuals did not co-invent” the component in question. Its application for the patent, which has not yet been issued, names several of its own employees as the sole inventors.

The N.I.H. had been in talks with Moderna for more than a year to try to resolve the dispute; the company’s July filing caught the agency by surprise, according to a government official familiar with the matter. It is unclear when the patent office will act, but its role is simply to determine whether a patent is warranted. If the two sides do not come to terms by the time a patent is issued, the government will have to decide whether to go to court — a battle that could be costly and messy.

The dispute is about much more than scientific accolades or ego. If the three agency scientists are named on the patent along with the Moderna employees, the federal government could have more of a say in which companies manufacture the vaccine, which in turn could influence which countries get access. It would also secure a nearly unfettered right to license the technology, which could bring millions into the federal treasury.

The fight comes amid mounting frustration in the U.S. government and elsewhere with Moderna’s limited efforts to get its vaccine to poorer countries. The company, which has not previously brought a product to market, received nearly $10 billion in taxpayer funding to develop the vaccine, test it and provide doses to the federal government. It has already lined up supply deals worth about $35 billion through the end of 2022.

Credit…Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The N.F.L. has fined the Green Bay Packers $300,000 and two of its players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard, $14,650 each for failing to follow the Covid-19 protocols agreed on by the league and players’ union.

The penalties come about a week after Rodgers tested positive for the coronavirus and his subsequent public statements espousing false and unfounded claims about the Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. Those comments were condemned by public health officials and by some fellow athletes, though the league’s decision focused on his compliance with the rules.

Rodgers and Lazard, who is also unvaccinated, were penalized for attending a Halloween party even though the Covid-19 protocols prohibit unvaccinated players from gathering outside the team facility in a group of more than three players.

Rodgers also did not wear a mask when speaking with reporters, another violation of the league’s rules.

The team, which was notified of the fines late Tuesday, was penalized far more than the players because it did not do more to police its players’ behavior. The fine against the Packers is one of the largest for Covid-19 protocol violations.

Credit…Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

The University of California, Berkeley postponed its Saturday football game because of positive coronavirus cases among players, the school announced Tuesday evening. The matchup against the University of Southern California became the first game of the 2021 season at the sport’s top level to be rescheduled because of the virus.

Cal will instead host U.S.C. on Dec. 4, the school announced on Twitter.

Cal had played short-handed during its game last week, a loss to previously winless University of Arizona on Saturday. The Golden Bears were missing more than 24 players, including their starting quarterback, Chase Garbers, ESPN reported.

Cal, in a statement announcing Saturday’s postponement, cited “additional Cal football student-athletes who tested positive for Covid-19 and are unavailable to practice this week or play in the contest.”

“It was a difficult decision to postpone this Saturday’s game against U.S.C.,” Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton said. “We know how important every one of our games is to our student-athletes, especially our seniors who have been incredible representatives of the program, but it was the right thing to do.”

The Pac-12 Conference, which includes Cal, U.S.C. and Arizona, had reinstated its forfeit policy before the season after modifying it to stage the 2020 season amid the pandemic. As a result, games canceled because of virus outbreaks were more likely to be counted as forfeits instead of no contests.

Cal, in a statement before its game against Arizona, said 99 percent of football players were fully vaccinated. Students, faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, though exemptions and accommodations were permitted in some cases. The city of Berkeley, Calif., has taken aggressive measures to control the virus, including requiring employees and customers at restaurants, clubs, bars and entertainment venues to be fully vaccinated.

Credit…Divyakant Solanki/EPA, via Shutterstock

India’s coronavirus crisis was killing thousands of people a day seven months ago. Now, as the nation celebrates the delivery of its one billionth vaccine dose, public health experts are sounding a new warning: The turnaround is losing steam.

Vaccinations are slowing down. As the temperature dips amid India’s most important festival season, people are crowding markets and hosting unmasked friends and family indoors. And the government is telling vaccination campaign volunteers like Namanjaya Khobragade that they are no longer needed.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” said Ms. Khobragade, a coordinator for a health nonprofit group in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

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.

India’s progress, which represents a significant step toward ending the crisis globally, is an important political win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government came under heavy criticism for failing to prepare for a devastating second wave. After the virus killed tens of thousands of people, India’s government threw money at bolstering vaccine production, stopped vaccine exports and tossed out cumbersome inoculation rules.

By official figures, daily infections have plunged to about 12,000 per day from about 42,000 four months ago. Deaths, too, have fallen by half, to about 400 per day, though experts consider India’s statistics on infections and deaths to be a gross undercount.

But with only one-quarter of its vast population fully vaccinated, India is deeply vulnerable.

Credit…Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Canada’s health agency authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine nationwide on Tuesday, broadening eligibility to anyone over the age of 18, regardless of what vaccine they received initially.

Health Canada, the federal department responsible for approving drugs, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization had previously updated vaccine guidelines in September to recommend booster shots for seniors living in congregate settings and for people with compromised immune systems.

The new guidelines cite early evidence from two studies in Israel, including an Oct. 7 article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that rates of “severe illness were substantially lower” for those who received a third Pfizer-BioNTech dose. Israel approved those booster shots on July 30.

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.

In Canada, where the administration of health care falls under provincial control, some provinces had already begun to offer booster doses based on the interim federal guidelines. On Oct. 29, eligibility was expanded to frontline health workers, adults over 70, First Nations communities, and people who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Provinces including Ontario, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have already begun administering booster shots to these populations, or to people traveling to countries that require certain vaccines.

The Health Canada announcement on Tuesday standardized eligibility criteria across the country. The agency recommended that adults receive the Pfizer booster at least six months after their last dose.

Pfizer is also seeking regulatory approval for its vaccine to be administered to children aged 5 to 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month, with the country slated to receive 2.9 million pediatric doses when the authorization is granted.

As of Oct. 30, close to 74 percent of the country’s population was fully vaccinated, according to federal data.





England Will Require Frontline Health Workers to Get Vaccinated

Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, said frontline health workers in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by April in order to “avoid preventable harm and protect patients.”

I have concluded that all those working in the N.H.S. and social care will have to be vaccinated. We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the N.H.S., protect colleagues in the N.H.S. and of course, protect the N.H.S. itself. There will be two key exemptions: one for those who don’t have face-to-face contact with patients, and the second for those that are medically exempt. This decision doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize concerns about workforce pressures this winter, and indeed, beyond. As a result of some people perhaps choosing to leave their job because of the decision that we’ve taken, of course, I recognize that. It’s with this in mind that we’ve chosen for the condition not to come into force until 12 weeks after parliamentary approval, allowing time for remaining colleagues to make the positive choice to protect themselves and those around them, and time for workforce planning. Subject to parliamentary approval, we intend the enforcement of this condition to start on the 1st of April.

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Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, said frontline health workers in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by April in order to “avoid preventable harm and protect patients.”

All frontline health workers in England must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by next spring to keep their jobs, Britain’s health secretary said on Tuesday, a move that employers and trade unions warned could aggravate staff shortages.

“We must avoid preventable harm and protect patients in the N.H.S., protect colleagues in the N.H.S. and, of course, protect the N.H.S. itself,” Sajid Javid, the health secretary, told Parliament, referring to the National Health Service. He added that about 90 percent of the service’s workers had received at least two vaccine doses.

The measure, which is subject to parliamentary approval, is due to come into force on April 1. Exemptions will be available for people who are medically prevented from receiving vaccines and for health workers who have no face-to-face contact with patients.

That time frame is intended to ensure that workers who do not want to be vaccinated remain in their jobs during the winter, when the strain on the country’s overstretched health service is likely to be particularly acute.

England’s health service employs around 1.3 million workers, though not all are in frontline positions. About 80,000 to 100,000 N.H.S. workers in the country remain unvaccinated against Covid, according to Chris Hopson, the chief executive of N.H.S. Providers, a membership organization for the N.H.S. hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can make their own decisions on the issue, and so far have not put forward proposals.

In Britain, one main concern is that people reluctant to be vaccinated will quit their jobs and worsen staff shortages within a health service that is under acute strain and that expects more pressure as winter sets in.

“The problem for both social care and the N.H.S. is that we run these systems incredibly hot on very, very fine margins,” he told the BBC. “Both of us have got around 90,000 to 100,000 vacancies.”

  • As virus cases rise across Europe, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced that people over 65 years old must get a booster shot to remain eligible for a vaccine “passport,” which is required to gain access to restaurants, museums, long-distance trains and other public places. The new rule takes effect Dec. 15.

  • Roughly 308 million pieces of personal protective equipment bought by the Dutch government, including masks, goggles and gloves, were rejected for use in hospitals, a spokesman for the health ministry said. The Netherlands recently reintroduced measures to slow the spread of the virus and ease the growing pressure on the country’s health system. Last week almost 77,000 people tested positive for the virus, according to government figures.

  • Hong Kong’s latest “zero Covid” policy — a mandatory smartphone tracking app — is prompting online mockery and pushback. Residents must show their LeaveHomeSafe app to enter any public government facilities — including outdoor markets, libraries and pools. One nongovernmental organization warned that the requirement, which started on Nov. 1, would hurt the homeless and others who do not have a smartphone but depend on government services.

  • About 3,000 people marched through Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, on Tuesday to protest vaccination requirements and coronavirus restrictions, forcing a lockdown of Parliament and closure of local streets. In recent weeks the government has announced sweeping vaccine mandates for about 40 percent of the country’s workers, as well as requirements for vaccination certificates to gain access to restaurants, gyms and public events.




U.S. Calls for Release of Detained Chinese Citizen Journalist

The U.S. State Department urged China to release Zhang Zhan, who was prosecuted for documenting the country’s coronavirus crisis. Ms. Zhang’s family and friends said she was seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she did not receive treatment.

The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of P.R.C. citizen journalist Ms. Zhang Zhan. According to multiple reports citing her relatives comments, Ms. Zhang is near death. In December of 2020, Beijing authorities sentenced Ms. Zhang to four years in prison on charges associated with her journalism on Covid-19 in Wuhan. The United States, along with other diplomatic missions, we have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it. We reiterate our call to the P.R.C. for her immediate and unconditional release, and for Beijing to respect the free press and the right of people to express themselves freely.

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The U.S. State Department urged China to release Zhang Zhan, who was prosecuted for documenting the country’s coronavirus crisis. Ms. Zhang’s family and friends said she was seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she did not receive treatment.CreditCredit…Melanie Wang, via Associated Press

The first known person to be prosecuted for documenting China’s coronavirus crisis is seriously ill in a Shanghai prison and could die if she does not receive treatment, her family and friends say — a disclosure that has drawn renewed attention to China’s efforts to whitewash its early handling of the pandemic.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department called on the Chinese government to immediately release the woman, Zhang Zhan. Human Rights Watch has called for the same.

“We have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns about the arbitrary nature of her detention and her mistreatment during it,” a State Department spokesman, Ned Price, told reporters.

China has worked aggressively to silence critics of its response early in the pandemic, when it played down the virus’s spread and punished whistle-blowers. It has promoted a triumphant, nationalistic narrative of Chinese superiority, focusing on later success in containing new cases.

Ms. Zhang, 38, was one of several self-styled citizen journalists who traveled to the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, early last year. As the chaos of the initial outbreak, followed by strict government controls on information, made it difficult for outsiders to know what was happening in Wuhan, those citizen journalists posted videos and blog posts to social media to share what they were seeing.

Ms. Zhang visited a hospital, where she filmed beds crowding the hallway, and a crematory. She interviewed residents on the street about their livelihood concerns and asked how they viewed the government’s response.

In May 2020, after several months of dispatches, she disappeared. Her family was later told that she had been arrested and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catchall term that the Chinese authorities use to silence critics. In December, she was sentenced to four years in prison.

Not long after being arrested, Ms. Zhang began a hunger strike, according to her lawyers. One of her lawyers, Zhang Keke, said last year that her hands had been bound during one of his visits; she told him that it was to prevent her from pulling out tubes for force-feeding.

Ms. Zhang has continued to refuse most food since her trial, according to friends and rights activists. She was briefly hospitalized over the summer. Her health has continued to deteriorate: Ms. Zhang, who is 5-foot-10 and once weighed about 165 pounds, appeared to weigh less than 90 pounds in October, according to a Twitter post late last month by her brother, Zhang Ju.

“I think she probably cannot live much longer,” he wrote, adding in a separate post that his mother had recently spoken with Ms. Zhang.

Mr. Zhang could not immediately be reached for comment, but friends of Ms. Zhang confirmed that the Twitter account was his.

Mr. Zhang shared a photo of his sister around age 6 or 7, dancing on a bed at home. “I have never met anyone purer than her,” he said, “nor have I met anyone more determined.”

Credit…Saint Michael’s College

Officials at a college in Colchester, Vt., are blaming Halloween parties for a Covid outbreak, which comes as the state of Vermont has reported a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week.

The virus is surging in Vermont as more people gather inside to avoid the cold weather. Experts warn that holiday gatherings could lead to more cases this winter.

New daily cases have increased 51 percent over the past two weeks, according to a New York Times database. Hospitalizations are also trending upward, fueling anxiety about the state’s hospital capacity as winter approaches.

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.

Vermont is testing for the coronavirus more than most states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Last week, its Republican governor, Phil Scott, said in a statement that while testing had increased and the state’s positivity rate had stayed roughly the same, Vermonters needed to take all precautions they could. He also warned that if cases remain as high as they are, it “would be a significant strain” on the state’s hospitals.

At Saint Michael’s College, a liberal-arts school north of Burlington, 77 students tested positive for the virus this week and last week, according to the college’s Covid-19 dashboard. In letters to the school, Lorraine Sterritt, the college president, said that Halloween parties had fueled the outbreak.

“We were doing really well as a community up to the point where there were numerous Halloween parties where students were unmasked and in close contact,” she said in the letter on Sunday.

Before the post-Halloween surge, the college had reported 11 cases from Aug. 27 to Oct. 22, according to the dashboard. Saint Michael’s has about 1,700 students.

“To be in this situation after such a well-managed semester is heartbreaking,” Ms. Sterritt said in a letter on Friday. “It is imperative that everyone make wise choices.”

The college on Sunday suspended “in-person student social gatherings” through Thanksgiving and asked that students limit off-campus travel. The school moved its classes online on Friday amid the outbreak, but Ms. Sterritt said that in-person classes would continue this week.

Vermont is grappling with its highest number of new cases since the pandemic began, according to a New York Times database, even though it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.

Credit…Edgar Su/Reuters

Singapore will no longer cover the medical costs of Covid-19 patients who are eligible to get vaccinated against the virus but choose not to, the country’s Health Ministry said.

“We will begin charging Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice” on Dec. 8, the ministry said in a statement on Monday. Those who are not eligible for the shots will be exempt from the rule, it said, including children under 12 and people with certain medical conditions.

The number of severe cases, which have been mainly among unvaccinated people, has stabilized but remains high, the ministry said. Of about 280 intensive-care beds for Covid patients, 134 are occupied, and most are among those not vaccinated, a senior minister of state, Janil Puthucheary, said at a news conference.

“We have to continue to try to keep this number as small as possible,” he said, since health care workers “continue to be stretched.”

Singapore has vaccinated more than 80 percent of its population, outpacing most other countries. But the sustained numbers of severe cases have put such a strain on Singapore’s health care system that officials said they would expand the overall hospital capacity to 4,000 hospital beds from 2,500 by the end of the month.

Most Covid patients vulnerable to severe illness and requiring intensive care are people ages 60 and over, Mr. Puthucheary said. At least 6 percent of people 60 and over in Singapore have yet to get shots, according to the Health Ministry.

“We have to send this important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible,” the health minister, Ong Ye Kung, said at the news conference.

Patients who are unvaccinated by choice may still use other health care financing options to pay their bills, such as government subsidies and private insurance, it added. Even for those who are unvaccinated, billing “will still be highly supported and highly subsidized,” Mr. Ong said.

Singapore will continue to cover partly vaccinated patients until Dec. 31 to allow them time to get their second shots, the health ministry said.

To encourage vaccinations, the officials said they would also begin allowing five fully vaccinated people from any household to dine in restaurants together starting on Wednesday, up from the two that are currently allowed.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Macy’s is offering its employees referral bonuses of up to $500 for each friend or relative who joins the company. Walmart is paying as much as $17 an hour to start, and has begun offering free college tuition to its workers. Some Amazon warehouse jobs now command signing bonuses of up to $3,000.

Expecting the holiday shopping season to be bustling this year after being upended by the coronavirus in 2020, retailers are scrambling to find enough workers to staff their stores and distribution centers in a tight labor market.

It is not proving easy to entice applicants for an industry that has been battered more than most by the pandemic’s many challenges, from fights over mask wearing to high rates of infection among employees. Willing retail workers are likely to earn larger paychecks and work fewer hours than they might have before the pandemic, and consumers may find less inventory on shelves and fewer sales associates in stores.

“Folks looking to work in retail have typically had very little choice — it’s largely been driven by geography and availability of hours,” said Mark A. Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia University’s business school. “Now they can pick and choose who’s got the highest, best benefits, bonuses and hourly rates. And as we’ve seen, the escalation has been striking.”

Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

More than 300 employees at Hearst’s magazine division have signed a petition objecting to the company’s plan to have them return to the office starting next week, and their union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

Hearst, whose titles include Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping, told staff members in October that they would be required to return to U.S. offices starting Nov. 15.

For the first two weeks, workers are expected to come in once a week; then the requirement will be two days per week until early 2022. Eventually, workers will be required to be in the office — the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan for many — three days a week, the company has said. Hearst is also requiring that all employees be vaccinated.

“We recognize that returning to the office is a big step and that some people are apprehensive about it,” Debi Chirichella, Hearst’s president, said in an email to staff last month. “Adjusting to this new way of working will require the same flexibility, patience and collaboration that we all demonstrated when we began working from home.”

Employees have pushed back. Some 300 — a majority of the approximately 550 in the magazine division as well as the 450 in its union — sent their petition to a top Hearst executive on Monday. It calls for the company to do away with required office days, according to a spokesman for the Writers Guild of America, East, the union that represents Hearst journalists.

“We support a continuation of the functional norm that we have reached as a result of our extraordinary circumstances, with employees and teams able to make decisions that are appropriate for their work needs,” the petition said. “We have seen our colleagues adapt to unprecedented changes in our work lives without a drop in productivity.”

A Hearst spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

On Thursday, the Writers Guild filed an unfair labor practice charge against Hearst with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the company had failed to provide requested information over return-to-office protocols. The company’s journalists won a vote to unionize in July 2020 and are negotiating their first contract.

The bargaining committee has asked for a flexible arrangement, and the company rejected it, said Jason Speakman, an associate digital visuals editor at Men’s Health who is a member of the bargaining committee.

Mr. Speakman said most of his colleagues didn’t want to be required to return to the office, while others would accept mandatory office days but not three per week. The reasons for the preference for remote work ranged “from the extra hour of sleep in the morning when they’re not commuting to the mental health toll of commuting on a crowded train to caring for family members in another part of the country,” he said.

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