By Maria Medina

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — On Monday, more than 8,000 San Jose city employees must provide proof of their COVID-19 vaccination or get tested for the virus weekly to avoid being placed on unpaid leave.

The policy, which allows for religious and medical exemptions when it comes to vaccinations, will apply to police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, library and city hall workers and even the mayor. Those who refuse and fail to comply and are placed on non-paid leave won’t be able to use vacation, comp or sick time, according to the policy.

“We need everyone in the community to get vaccinated and we’re going to start right here with our own team at the city,” said mayor Sam Liccardo earlier this month when the policy was first proposed.

Liccardo found support from one of the largest unions in city hall.

“The majority of our union is supporting this,” said AFSCME union president Steven Solorio two weeks ago.

But the union representing San Jose police officers was more hesitant and called for city leaders to discuss the proposal with them before it became a mandate. The union could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The city is also considering making COVID vaccinations mandatory for all employees by Sept. 30. Medical and religious exemptions will be accepted.

On Wednesday, Liccardo announced his proposal to require proof of vaccination at all city-owned facilities for attendees and staff at gatherings of 50 or more people. He also told KPIX that he wants council members to review what impact San Francisco’s proof of vaccination mandate at almost all indoor facilities is having on infections, hospitalizations and small businesses. He said San Jose could “possibly” go in the same direction.

In Contra Costa County, officials announced that, starting Sept. 17, first responders would be required to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly COVID testing. The mandate was met with pushback. Fire departments across the state have experienced similar frustrations as vaccination mandates are implemented.

“We do support getting vaccinated but, at the same time, have respect for their ability to make their decision,” Vincent Wells, president of the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County told KPIX last Friday.

“We’re not anti-vaccine, we’re pro vaccine, we want everybody to get vaccinated,” San Francisco Fire Capt. Sherman Tillman also said on Aug. 13. “But we are anti-mandates and we feel that each person should have the right to make their own decision for them and their families.”