Amid an ongoing legal battle over Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s vaccine mandate for city workers, the controversial president of Chicago’s largest police union announced this weekend that he tested positive for COVID-19 in a breakthrough infection.
In a video posted to YouTube Saturday, John Catanzara told members of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 that he “came down” with the virus last week as cases surged to unseen levels and the union and the city remained locked in arbitration over the vaccine mandate. Catanzara, who retired from the police department in November and teased a mayoral run, noted his symptoms were “mild” and “already subsiding.”
But he also used the five-minute video to take shots at city leaders — and the vaccine shots he baselessly claimed are ineffective.
“This vaccine is not a vaccine. It is a COVID treatment at best,” he claimed. “Far too many people who are vaccinated are getting the virus for it to be called a vaccine. That needs to stop. All we can do is continue to distance a little better, wash your hands more, and be a little smarter about how you interact with other people.”
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Catanzara, who recently vacationed in Jamaica, didn’t respond to questions, including whether he’s received a booster shot.
Dr. Robert Murphy, the executive director of the Institute of Global Health at Northwestern University, said getting that additional shot is critical as he lambasted Catanzara’s “dangerous” comments.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That’s completely ridiculous what he just said,” Murphy noted. “It’s by all definitions a vaccine. It is not a treatment. It will prevent infections if you’re boosted. But even then, you could have a breakthrough. It will prevent much better severe disease, hospitalization and death.”
A spokesperson for Google, YouTube’s parent company, didn’t respond when asked whether Catanzara’s comments violate the video platform’s vaccine misinformation policy.
Multiple Chicago police officers have died from COVID-19. And in October, former FOP President Dean Angelo Sr. succumbed to the virus following a weeks-long battle. At the time, Angelo’s son declined to say whether his father had been vaccinated.
Angelo’s death came amid Catanzara’s crusade against the city’s vaccine mandate, which he has framed as an overreach. But the current union leader’s public pushback has also drawn controversy; he apologized in August for comparing the employee vaccination policy to Nazi Germany.
Lightfoot’s order required all city employees to first report their vaccination status to an online portal by mid-October, although workers could opt for testing rather than getting vaccinated through the end of 2021. In November, a Cook County judge stayed the Dec. 31 deadline for all police officers to be vaccinated, effectively sending city attorneys and the police department’s labor unions back to the bargaining table to resolve the dispute.
Catanzara continued to strike a defiant tone throughout the YouTube video, noting he expects the arbitration proceedings to wrap up early this week ahead of a ruling. A Lightfoot spokesperson didn’t respond to questions.
“We are leaving no bullets in the gun, so to speak,” Catanzara said. “And we’re challenging every component of this ridiculous process.”