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'He'll be missed': 41-year-old El Paso County deputy dies after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19

Deputy Jeff Hopkins died Wednesday. Test results Thursday morning showed he was positive for COVID-19. He had been with the sheriff's office since 2001.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A 41-year-old deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff's office (EPCSO) died after experiencing symptom of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that first appeared in Colorado on March 5.

Deputy Jeff Hopkins died April 1 and had been experiencing symptoms for seven to 10 days prior to that, according to El Paso County health officials. He was tested for COVID-19 on March 31 but the positive test result was not confirmed until Thursday morning, the day after his death, EPCSO Sheriff Bill Elder said during a briefing.

"It's tough when you have to do this," Elder said. "He was an exceptional employee. He was always committed to the mission and the vision of the sheriff's office and he will be missed."

He leaves behind his wife Wendy and his parents.

Elder and county health officials said they're investigating how Hopkins contracted the coronavirus. His last assignment was as an intake deputy at the county jail, according to Elder.

"His death is a reminder of the risk carried by those who serve," said Susan Wheelan, director of El Paso County Public Health. "We as a community thank his family and friends for sharing his life with us."

Health officials said they're also working to identify people that Hopkins might have had contact with to determine who he could have potentially infected. Health officials said at this time they're not aware if Hopkins had any underlying health conditions.

“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,” a statement from Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) reads. “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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Eight employees within the sheriff's office have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Elder.

More than 3,300 people in Colorado have tested positive for COVID-19 and 80 people have died. It's spread to 50 of the states 64 counties since first being confirmed in the state in early March.

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