COLORADO SPRINGS — The El Paso County Sheriff's Office confirmed in a press conference Thursday that one of their deputies died due to COVID-19.
Deputy Jeff Hopkins was 41 years old and has been with the sheriff's office since 2001.
Director Susan Wheelan with the El Paso County Public Health Department said it is unknown how Hopkins contracted COVID-19.
"We appreciate all of the sacrifices of every first responder... and each person performing a critical service," Wheelan said. "We all honor their sacrifice and dedication. While others have passed away from this disease, given the nature of his service, Deputy Hopkins is the first face and name of the casualties within our community."
She said his memory and those he left behind should be treated with dignity and respect.
"It's a hard day for us," Wheelan said. She said it is a sobering reminder that the disease can effect anyone and no one is immune.
Dr. Leon Kelly, who is acting as the county’s deputy medical director during the outbreak, said the health department has worked from the beginning to combat this virus.
"[His death] is also a stark reminder that we must be as resilient...as the virus itself," Kelly said.
Sheriff Bill Elder said the sheriff's office began a response plan as early as March. This included disinfecting the building or patrol cars.
"I appreciate our partnerships more than they even know. They've been with us every minute of every day," Elder said.
Elder said they are working to learn who Hopkins has been in contact with. He said Hopkins did not work many days and that the sheriff's office has tried to limit the amount of contact the deputies have at work.
He said the difficult part is that a lot of people knew he passed, but the confirmation it was COVID-19 did not come in until Thursday morning.
Gov. Jared Polis has released a statement on the passing of Hopkins:
“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,” Polis said in a release. “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."
Elder said eight deputies tested positive for COVID-19, including Hopkins. As of Wednesday afternoon, there are 3,342 cases of the virus in Colorado with 314 of those in El Paso County.