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SAN DIEGO — Unvaccinated first responders are weighing their options after the city started sending pre-termination letters to city workers who haven’t showed proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.

Wednesday was the deadline for city employees to submit documentation following San Diego City Council’s approval Monday of an emergency mandate requiring city workers to be fully vaccinated. City contractors have until Jan. 3 to get their shots.

“You can resign, retire, go on unpaid leave, turn in an exemption or get the shot,” Paul Lotze, an engineer for the San Diego Fire Department, said.

Lotze said after praying about the vaccine, he decided he won’t get it and plans to request an exemption. As of Nov. 29, 619 employees had applied for exemptions, including 15 for medical reasons and 604 on the basis of religious beliefs. The city is considering requests on a case-by-case basis.

“I’m going to take the 30 days and wait to turn in my exemption,” Lotze said. “Because I’m hopeful that in those 30 days, we continue to have more change in what’s happening across the country.”

Data presented at the city council meeting Monday showed 80.6% of city workers were already fully-vaccinated. Pre-termination letters are now going out to unvaccinated employees telling them they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. They will have 30 days to show proof of vaccination or be permanently let go.

“I don’t want to lose any member of our city family,” Gloria said of the mandate. “I hope that none of them choose to leave city service. But more importantly, I don’t want to lose any of them to COVID-19.”

Gloria said city services, including trash collection and first responder academies, have already been affected by cases of COVID-19. City officials told FOX 5 they are preparing for all contingencies, including for overtime pay and to staff up quickly if they lose employees because of the mandate.

“I’ve had it twice,” said James Burnett, a San Diego police detective. “The first time was in January 2020. They thought it was bronchitis. It was pretty bad the first time. I had to get an inhaler and they put me on steroids. The second time, I lost my taste and smell and had some body aches and then it went away.”

Burnett said he believes his two bouts of COVID should count as vaccination. Initially, he was not going to comply with the mandate but he said he has a lot at stake with three kids at home.

“I don’t want to jump the gun and uproot the family and everything based on information I just don’t have,” said Burnett.

Both first responders told FOX 5 they will be submitting exemption requests, though they hope a judge steps in and stops any terminations.