Covid-19 Vaccine

‘I Pray to God': SDFD Firefighter Has Little Faith His Religious Vaccine Exemption Will be Approved

San Diego Firefighter Paul Lotze, 44, plans to file a religious vaccine mandate exemption but stands to lose a job that pays $100,000 with overtime

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Unvaccinated employees with the city of San Diego had until Dec. 1 to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face possible termination. As of 9 a.m. on deadline day, 1,843 workers were still not fully vaccinated.

Since last Wednesday, 265 city employees have gotten the vaccination, suggesting the deadline is having an impact on some workers.

Meanwhile, 946 total requests for Reasonable Accommodation and Vaccination Exemptions have been made since Nov. 30, according to data released by Mayor Todd Gloria's office.

The city breaks down its vaccination list by its recognized bargaining organizations.

The highest number of unvaccinated employees continues to be police officers, with 629 of 1,978 Police Officers Association members, or 31.8%, still not vaccinated.

Meanwhile, of the 943 firefighters in the city of San Diego represented by Local 145, 140, or 14.8%, still have not been vaccinated.

One of them is veteran firefighter engineer Paul Lotze.

“My process with all my decision making looks like this: I pray to God, and I seek his peace. And his peace will rest on his answer,” Lotze said.

Lotze, 44, plans to file a religious exemption but stands to lose a job he says pays him more than $100,000 a year with overtime.

“There’s lots of data coming out all the time that is changing what we know of the virus. There was a time where we believed that if you get the vaccine, you will not get COVID-19," Lotze claimed. "And certainly, now, we know that’s not true."

Most of the available data supports the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccination and Lotze agrees the vaccine does benefit people, but he’s confident in his personal decision.

“I’m hearing my perfect Daddy in heaven saying, 'Hey, well done,' and, "You are doing the right thing. And I give you my peace on my decision and I support it,'” said Lotze.

He’s not confident his exemption will be approved and is voicing concern over the process.

“How can they make a determination about a relationship that they’ve never engaged in with that person. Truly they can’t. I’m not confident at all because I don’t know the metrics they’re using, I don’t know how they’re determining it, but I am confident in my testimony and my story,” said Lotze.

According to the mayor’s office, the city will review requests for accommodation and exemption on a case-by-case basis. The human resources department will be reviewing and evaluating the requests with assistance from the City Attorney’s office.

“Employees determined to not qualify for a reasonable accommodation and exemption, will be advised of the reason for the denial of their request in writing. Employees will also be provided with all due process rights to which they are entitled related to any termination of their employment as a result of their failure to comply with the City’s Mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy,” said Courtney Pittman, Press Secretary for the Office of Mayor Todd Gloria.

Meanwhile, Lotze said he’s applied for several jobs out of state.

“I hope that the other firefighters and police officers and city workers who are going through this will see if I can do this, so can you, and we have opportunities. The job market is robust, there’s so many jobs out there,” said Lotze.

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