EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. – A 41-year-old El Paso County sheriff’s deputy died Wednesday of COVID-19, the sheriff and county health officials announced Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Jeff Hopkins, who was most recently an intake and release deputy at the county jail, died while off duty Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said. He had worked for the sheriff’s office since 2001 and leaves behind his wife, Wendy.
Sheriff Bill Elder said a public health investigation into his death and COVID-19 exposure would “take some time.” He said there were 900 employees of the sheriff’s office and that Hopkins was one of eight employees who had tested positive for the virus.
Elder said that he believed, roughly, that about 40 deputies work in intake and release on all the shifts and around 25-30 civilian employees. He said he believed that Hopkins had contact with some people, but not as many as could have been the case because he had taken time off recently.
Elder said he believed Hopkins had symptoms for about 7-10 days before his death Wednesday, and that officials did not receive confirmation of Hopkins’ positive COVID-19 test until Thursday morning.
County Public Health Director Susan Wheelan said officials do not yet know how Hopkins contracted the virus.
Dr. Robin Johnson, the medical director for El Paso County Health, said Hopkins did not have any known underlying health conditions.
"Some have felt that COVID-19 only impacts older people but with the passing of Deputy Hopkins, it reminds us that no one is immune," Johnson said.
Johnson urged residents to call their healthcare provider or use telehealth technology if they are experiencing symptoms, to avoid potentially exposing healthcare workers and first responders.
"The small sacrifices we make each day can help save a life," Johnson said.
Elder said he spoke with Hopkins’ wife on Wednesday night and with some other sheriff’s office employees, and said that doing so was “tough."
Hopkins’ death is the first known death among law enforcement officers in Colorado from the novel coronavirus.
“My condolences go out to Deputy Hopkins’ family. Deputy Hopkins spent his life serving his community and working to make our state a better place,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “This is an incredibly difficult time for our state, and even more so for those who have lost a loved one. Each tragic death from Coronavirus is a stark reminder of why we need to stay at home. We can’t thank our first responders and law enforcement enough for serving on the front lines, demonstrating in this crisis and every day their dedication and sacrifice.”
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