Metro first responders among those being hit hard by COVID-19

ATLANTA — AS COVID-19 cases rise, first responders in the metro area are being impacted as two more officers died from the virus in the last week.

Both Carroll County Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Hopson last month and sheriff’s deputy Jody Smith last week were unvaccinated when they contracted COVID-19 and passed away.

The city of Monroe is also mourning the loss of Detective Tracey Conroy, who passed away last week.

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An officer memorial website that tracks COVID-19 deaths, says that 130 officers have died from the virus this year, making it the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths among law enforcement.

Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley says Smith touched many lives in his 8 years of service to the county.

“Your family, friends and CCSO will never forget your courage and dedication to them and everyone else you came in contact with,” dispatchers said as the radioed his end of watch call over the weekend.

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Dan Bachmann is an emergency doctor and one of the investigators at the Center to Stop COVID at Ohio State University. He says they are studying the longterm impact of COVID-19 on first responders, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.

“What are the mitigating factors that protect first responders? given the job that they do and exposures required for their job,” he said.

So far, researchers have found that the best tool for first responders is the same thing that works for the general public: the vaccine.

Sheriff Langley says he will not mandate the vaccine, but says his decision to get the vaccine may have saved his life. He was diagnosed with a breakthrough case of the virus three weeks ago but only had mild symptoms and has since recovered.

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The Ohio State study will take five years to complete, but part of the study includes a nationwide survey on vaccination status. Some think the vaccination rate among first responders will come in far lower than that of the general public.

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