COVID deaths impacting law enforcement officials across the Chattahoochee Valley
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - COVID-19 is hitting law enforcement especially hard all across the nation. More than 100 officers have passed from the virus making it the leading cause of death for officers.
“COVID is something that we need to be cautious of and we need to take every safety precaution possible,” said Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman.
While COVID cases are declining nationwide, the number of COVID deaths involving law enforcement is not. Data from the the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund shows the virus has claimed the lives of 133 officers so far this year.
“I had COVID last year. I have high blood pressure. I have asthma. It was rough for me but I bounced back,” said Deputy Bayse Bourne.
Sheriff Countryman says constant interaction puts first responders at high risk of contracting the virus.
“When it’s time to protect, we go into a certain mode and adrenaline is running,” said Sheriff Countryman. “And so that officer, he or she, may get out of the vehicle and forget to put on the mask.”
Within the past two weeks, two sheriffs deputies have passed away from COVID. Sergeant Bobby Williams, a 30-year veteran with the the sheriff’s office, passed away September 13.
“Bobby was always someone that you know you could count on,” said Sheriff Countryman. “If you got into a tough situation, if you look back, Bobby Williams was always there.”
Deputy Bourne was great friends with 20-year Muscogee County Sergeant Sherman Peebles, who passed away from COVID September 21.
“We FaceTimed a lot -- as far as what I was grilling and then, in the summertime, when I would be fertilizing my yard and cutting it,” said Deputy Bourne.
Outside of Muscogee County, three other law enforcement officials have also passed away from COVID. Lee County security officer Freddie Rowell passed away September 14, Phenix City Assistant Police Chief Gail Green-Gilliam passed away in June and Harris County deputy Stephen Dutton passed away last year after spending a month in the hospital.
Muscogee County Sheriff deputies and officers at the Columbus Police Department are not required to get vaccinated. However, both do require masks.
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